Campaign finance takeaways: Corporate PACs reenter the political fray and Democratic incumbents build big war chests
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Campaign finance takeaways: Corporate PACs reenter the political fray and Democratic incumbents build big war chests

Some of the country’s biggest corporations have resumed political giving to the Republicans who objected to certifying Joe Biden’s White House victory — underscoring the fleeting nature of their well-publicized donation boycotts, along with their growing interest in swaying policy on Capitol Hill.

Texas-based American Airlines — which announced a three-month pause on all political contributions in the days following the deadly January 6 siege at the US Capitol — donated more than $110,000 to candidates and committees in May and June through its political action committee, new filings show.

Last month, the airline’s PAC donated to one of the 147 Republicans who objected to certifying the 2020 election results, giving $2,500 to GOP Rep. Sam Graves of Missouri. He’s the top Republican on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, a panel with oversight of the airline industry.

American Airlines did not immediately respond to an interview request. The donation was disclosed this week in a round of new campaign filings that offer an early preview of the expensive battles shaping up for next year’s midterm elections.

Other companies also have resumed donations to objectors in recent months, Federal Election Commission records show.

Duke Energy, which paused all federal political contributions for 30 days after the Capitol Hill riot, has contributed more than $300,000 to candidates and committees since the start of April, according to filings. The donations included $5,000 apiece to two members of the House Republican leadership who objected to the certification: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California and House GOP Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana.

On Thursday, McCarthy visited Donald Trump at his New Jersey golf resort to discuss the midterm elections — showing deference to the former President despite Trump’s continued promotion of baseless conspiracy theories about the 2020 election.

In announcing the halt in donations earlier this year, Duke Energy Executive Vice President Julie Janson said company officials intended to evaluate “Duke Energy-supported candidates’ values and actions to ensure they align to our values and goals. The way members of Congress conducted themselves in this critical time will be an important consideration in future support.”

Duke officials did not immediately respond to an interview request Friday.

The return to the political fray for some business PACs is not surprising, political observers say.

A CNN survey in January of the large companies that had previously donated to the 147 objectors found that most declined to say how long any donation boycott would last.

“The reality has always been that these PACs related to business interest groups will never forsake their economic interests for any other higher virtue,” said David Rehr, a George Mason University professor who ran trade groups in Washington.

At the time of the January riot, people were “horrified and had a knee-jerk reaction of ‘We’ve got to do something about this. We’re not going to give money to these people.’ “

But companies, he said, are facing potential policy changes in Washington that could shape their bottom lines, ranging from massive infrastructure proposals to a plan by President Joe Biden to increase the corporate tax rate to 28%, up from 21%.

In addition, Democrats control narrow majorities in Congress that could evaporate after next year’s elections. The president’s party typically loses ground in the midterms.

Other key takeaways

The new campaign finance reports filed this week with the FEC also offer a snapshot of the expensive fights ahead, including the brawl for control of the Senate.

Incumbents build big war chests

Some of the most closely watched Senate battles are beginning to take shape. Vulnerable Democratic incumbents are taking no chances. Sens. Mark Kelly of Arizona and Raphael Warnock of Georgia, on the ballot again next year after winning special elections, had substantial hauls in the April-to-July fundraising quarter, collecting $6 million and nearly $7.2 million, respectively.

And they are sitting on big cash reserves: $7.6 million in the case of Kelly and $10.5 million for Warnock.

Among Democratic challengers, Florida’s Rep. Val Demings had one of the biggest hauls, bringing in some $4.7 million to GOP Sen. Marco Rubio’s $4 million.

Rubio, a two-term incumbent, has far more cash on hand, however: $6.3 million to Demings’ $3.1 million.

Some Trump-favored candidates outraised

Although Republican candidates have leaned on Trump’s endorsement or image to spur donations, several of his Senate picks were outraised by their primary opponents in the second quarter.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, a top Trump target after she voted to convict him for inciting the January 6 insurrection, raised more than $1.1 million — roughly twice the amount collected by her primary opponent favored by Trump, Kelly Tshibaka. And Murkowski has about $2.3 million in cash reserves compared with Tshibaka’s $275,000.

In deep-red Alabama, Katie Boyd Britt raised $2.2 million in the Republican primary for an open Senate seat, now held by Republican Sen. Richard Shelby. That’s nearly three times the $824,000 raised by GOP Rep. Mo Brooks, who is backed by the former President. Britt is Shelby’s former chief of staff.

And in North Carolina, former Gov. Pat McCrory raised more than $1.2 million in the GOP primary for an open Senate seat, besting Trump’s choice, Rep. Ted Budd. Budd raised about $700,000 and loaned his campaign $250,000.

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