Pressure Mounts on Republicans to Buck Trump Amid Impeachment Battle
Republican lawmakers are facing intensifying pressure from some longtime allies and financiers over their continued ties with President Trump, as they reckon with taking stands on impeachment and protecting themselves politically to survive the 2022 midterm primaries and elections.
From Amazon to Walmart, a lengthening list of blue-chip giants of corporate America — long a bastion of G.O.P. money — are pledging to cut off funds to Republicans who opposed certifying the victory of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. An arm of Charles Koch’s political and nonprofit network, which is one of the largest and most influential in conservative circles and spent about $60 million in federal elections last year, said that opposing certification would be a factor that would “weigh heavily” in determining its future spending decisions.
And a handful of Democratic and independent groups are pledging to spend aggressively on advertising against Republican lawmakers who opposed certifying the results, with the first ads already hitting the airwaves in Wisconsin, Missouri, Texas and California.
Many veteran Republican donors have long had an uneasy relationship with Mr. Trump. But the president’s incitement of a violent mob that stormed the Capitol a week ago — which swiftly sparked his second impeachment on Wednesday — has deepened the divide.
Kenneth G. Langone, the billionaire co-founder of Home Depot and an influential Republican donor who contributed $1 million to a Senate Republican super PAC just two months ago, said he felt “betrayed” by Mr. Trump.
“The biggest mistake anybody is going to make is try and rationalize what happened last week, what the president did and what that crowd did,” Mr. Langone said in an interview on CNBC on Wednesday.
A total of 10 House Republicans voted to impeach Mr. Trump. That sum is at once the largest number ever to cast such a vote against a president of the same party and also less than 5 percent of the G.O.P. conference.
Some Washington Republicans remain dubious of the long-term impact of any threatened breakup within the G.O.P. donor or corporate class. The 2022 House and Senate elections are still far off, the fact that an exploding share of political money now comes from online donors has weakened the traditional donor class, and those small online contributors have proved durably loyal to Mr. Trump and his brand of grievance politics.
Still, Lisa Spies, a veteran Republican fund-raiser, said “the pressure is immense” on Republican lawmakers right now.
“I have never seen anything like this as far as PAC fund-raising goes,” said Ms. Spies, who urged corporations to think twice before cutting off the G.O.P. “As soon as the Biden administration comes in and starts regulating corporations, they’re going to need allies, and they’re abandoning their allies.”
In a sign of the growing public consciousness about political donations to Republicans aligned with Mr. Trump, a leading public relations firm, Weber Shandwick, sent out a “reputation advisory” to clients on Wednesday about the risks and rewards of reconsidering their political giving at this moment. “At the very least, companies need to be preparing for what they say when (not if) they are asked about specific contributions,” the memo said.
Some of the biggest corporate givers in America, including AT&T, Comcast, Cisco, Morgan Stanley and Verizon, have started cutting off donations to the 147 Republicans who voted against certifying the 2020 election results in at least one state. Other major companies are freezing donations, at least temporarily, to both parties. Major League Baseball announced such a move on Wednesday.
“You cannot overstate the consternation by lawmakers about fund-raising drying up,” said a former senior Trump administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations with Republican lawmakers.
The death this week of Sheldon Adelson, the Republican Party’s biggest financial benefactor, a casino magnate who poured more than $500 million into G.O.P. campaigns and super PACs in the last decade, punctuated the party’s precarious financial future with only days left until Democrats control the White House, the House and the Senate.
“Republican donors are disgusted,” said Scott Reed, a longtime Republican strategist and current lobbyist. He said there was growing frustration after both the riot at the Capitol and the two Georgia runoff losses “in races that should have been layups” that cost the party its Senate majority.
“It’s a one-two gut punch,” Mr. Reed said.
Along with Mr. Adelson, Mr. Koch has been one of the party’s most influential donors through a web of nonprofit and outside groups for more than a decade. Emily Seidel, the chief executive of the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity and a senior adviser to its political arm, AFP Action, said this week that “lawmakers’ actions leading up to and during last week’s insurrection will weigh heavy in our evaluation of future support.”
Across Washington, business lobbyists said they were struggling to contemplate how a blacklist of Republicans who objected to Mr. Trump would work in reality, when a majority of House Republicans — many of whom are likely to be allies in coming legislative fights in a Democrat-dominated Washington — voted to reject the election result.
After Mr. Trump’s impeachment by the House, he faces an uncertain future in a Senate trial where at least two Republicans, Senators Lisa Murkowski and Pat Toomey, have called on the president to resign and a third, Senator Mitt Romney, voted to convict him in an impeachment trial last year.
Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, told colleagues on Wednesday he was undecided on his vote.
To bolster those who break party ranks, a group of anti-Trump Republicans and former administration officials announced on Tuesday a $50 million commitment to support Republican lawmakers who join Democrats in impeaching Mr. Trump.
The Trump Impeachment ›
From Riot to Impeachment
The riot inside the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 6, followed a rally at which President Trump made an inflammatory speech to his supporters, questioning the results of the election. Here’s a look at what happened and at the ongoing fallout:
- As this video shows, poor planning and a restive crowd encouraged by President Trump set the stage for the riot.
- A two hour period was crucial to turning the rally into the riot.
- Several Trump administration officials, including cabinet members Betsy DeVos and Elaine Chao, announced that they were stepping down as a result of the riot.
- Federal prosecutors have charged more than 70 people, including some who appeared in viral photos and videos of the riot. Officials expect to eventually charge hundreds of others.
- The House has begun proceedings on an article of impeachment. It accuses the president of “inciting an insurrection” that led to the rampage by his supporters.
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