Policy

Big Tech is cutting off political contributions. Here are the biggest losers.

Election objectors like McCarthy, Nunes, Jordan and Stefanik all took tech PAC money last year. But they're not the only ones losing out.

Big Tech is cutting off political contributions. Here are the biggest losers.

Some of tech's biggest critics in Congress have taken money from tech PACs. Now, they're getting cut off.

Photo: Darren Halstead/Unsplash

One day after Twitter banned President Trump and Google and Apple kicked the far-right social network Parler out of their app stores, New York Rep. Elise Stefanik dashed off a tweet: "If you think the American people will quietly accept #BigTechTyranny, You. Are. Wrong."

One detail Stefanik left out: She took $30,000 from corporate PACs linked to Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Amazon and Intel in the last year alone, according to campaign finance records. During her tenure in Congress, she's raised nearly twice that much from those companies. And now, she's getting cut off.

Stefanik and the 146 other Republicans who voted against certifying election results last week — including fellow tech critics House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Reps. Devin Nunes and Jim Jordan — are among the many members of Congress who will soon lose financial backing from top tech PACs that are either scaling back or completely halting their corporate PACs' campaign contributions, following last week's siege on the Capitol.

For all of their efforts to secure the election, tech giants ended up contributing an awful lot to members of Congress who tried to overturn the election anyway. Of the more than $7 million that Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Amazon and Intel's PACs spent in the 2020 election cycle, Protocol found that around $700,000 of it went to members who voted to contest the results. That includes $35,000 that went to McCarthy, $14,000 that went to Jordan and $10,000 that went to Nunes, all of whom have lashed out at tech companies over alleged censorship. Now, those same companies are putting a hold on that spending while they reevaluate.

And yet, as many have pointed out, some efforts to pull back from political donations may wind up hurting those members who voted to certify the election results more than those who didn't. Facebook, Google and Microsoft have announced that they will be cutting off all PAC contributions for the foreseeable future, a decision that earned the companies criticism for punishing both sides of the aisle for a Republican-driven insurrection.

The numbers bear that out. While Microsoft spent $1.87 million on all PAC donations during the 2020 election cycle, only $167,000 of that went to members who objected to the election results. Google made some $1.86 million in contributions last year, but just $174,000 went to objectors, including McCarthy, Nunes, Stefanik and Jordan. Facebook spent less than either of those companies, with just $523,000 in overall PAC contributions in 2020, but just over $33,000 of that funded objectors. These three companies alone, in other words, could wind up withholding millions of dollars in support from members of Congress who voted to uphold the results, just to avoid singling out the ones who didn't.

Amazon, Airbnb and Intel, for their part, have said they will only be stopping contributions to members who objected to certification, leaving the vast majority of their contributions intact for now.

The companies set different timelines for themselves to reconsider their political giving. Facebook's pause will last "for at least the current quarter." Google said its PAC is on hiatus while "we review and reassess its policies following last week's deeply troubling events." Amazon said it will discuss the decision with affected members and "evaluate their responses as we consider future PAC contributions."

It's possible that any of these companies could return to business as usual in the second quarter when the memory of the riot isn't quite so fresh. But if they stick to their commitments in the long run, these companies could leave a significant hole in some Congressional coffers.

Here's a look at where top tech companies spent their money on Capitol Hill before the last election, who stands to lose their support for trying to overturn the results of that election and who's getting caught in the crossfire.

Methodology: This data comes from OpenSecrets. These figures apply only to PAC contributions, not lobbying spending or contributions made by individuals. Twitter and Apple don't have corporate PACs, so they're not reflected here. Airbnb also pledged to withhold contributions to election objectors, but in 2020, the company spent only about $5,000 on these members, so it was excluded from our list.

Amazon

Action taken: Suspended contributions to any member of Congress who voted to override the election results

Total PAC contributions in 2020 cycle: more than $1.94 million

Total PAC contributions to federal candidates in 2020 cycle: more than $1.26 million

Total PAC contributions to members who objected to election results in 2020: $238,500

Objectors who raised the most:

Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), $10,000
Sam Graves (R-MO), $10,000
Richard Hudson (R-NC), $10,000
Elise Stefanik (R-NY), $10,000
Morgan Griffith (R-VA), $10,000

Microsoft

Action taken: Will not make any political donations until after it "assesses the implications" of the riot

Total PAC contributions in 2020 cycle: more than $1.87 million

Total PAC contributions to federal candidates in 2020 cycle: more than $820,000

Total PAC contributions to members who objected to election results in 2020: $167,000

Objectors who raised the most:

Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), $10,000
Steve Scalise (R-LA), $10,000

Non-objectors who raised the most:

Chris Coons (D-DE), $10,000
Steven Daines (R-MT), $10,000
Lindsey Graham (R-SC), $10,000
Mitch McConnell (R-KY), $10,000
Gary Peters (D-MI), $10,000
Ben Sasse (R-NE), $10,000
Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), $10,000
Tina Smith (D-MN), $10,000
Dan Sullivan (R-AK), $10,000
Thom Tillis (R-NC), $10,000
Kelly Armstrong (R-ND), $10,000
Kevin Brady (R-TX), $10,000
James Clyburn (D-SC), $10,000
Steny Hoyer (D-MD), $10,000
Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ), $10,000
Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), $10,000
Adam Smith (D-WA), $10,000

Google

Action taken: Froze all political contributions

Total PAC contributions in 2020 cycle: more than $1.86 million

Total PAC contributions to federal candidates in 2020 cycle: $1.05 million

Total PAC contributions to members who objected to election results in 2020: $174,000

Objectors who raised the most:

Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), $10,000
Steve Scalise, (R-LA) $10,000
Elise Stefanik (R-NY), $10,000
Jim Jordan (R-OH), $10,000
Jeff Duncan (R-SC), $10,000
Steve Chabot (R-OH), $10,000

Non-objectors who raised the most:

Susan Collins (R-ME), $10,000
Chris Coons (D-DE), $10,000
Joni Ernst (R-IA), $10,000
Martha McSally (R-AZ), $10,000
Kevin Brady (R-TX), $10,000
John Curtis (R-UT), $10,000
Rodney Davis (R-IL), $10,000
Tom Emmer (R-MN), $10,000
Anna Eshoo (D-CA), $10,000
Drew Ferguson (R-GA), $10,000
Steny Hoyer (D-MD), $10,000
Darin LaHood (R-IL), $10,000
Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), $10,000
Michael McCaul (R-TX), $10,000
Patrick McHenry (R-NC), $10,000
Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ), $10,000
Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), $10,000
Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), $10,000

Intel

Action taken: Will not contribute to members of Congress who voted against certification of the Electoral College results

Total PAC contributions in 2020 cycle: more than $977,000

Total PAC contributions to federal candidates in 2020 cycle: more than $560,000

Total PAC contributions to members who objected to election results in 2020: $100,500

Objectors who raised the most:

Andy Biggs (R-AZ), $10,000
Roger Williams (R-TX), $10,000

Facebook

Action taken: Pausing all PAC contributions for at least the current quarter

Total PAC contributions in 2020 cycle: more than $523,000

Total PAC contributions to federal candidates in 2020 cycle: more than $303,000

Total PAC contributions to members who objected to election results in 2020: $33,500

Objectors who raised the most:

Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), $5,000
Steve Scalise (R-LA), $5,000
Michael Burgess (R-TX), $5,000

Non-objectors who raised the most:

Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), $10,000
Richard E. Neal (D-MA), $10,000
Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ), $10,000
Adam Schiff (D-CA), $10,000

Disclosure: Reporter Issie Lapowsky is married to an Amazon employee.

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