The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

The Finance 202: Big banks pause political giving after mob assault on the Capitol

with Brent D. Griffiths

Republican lawmakers who tried to overturn President-elect Joe Biden’s victory even after that effort unleashed a violent mob on the Capitol now face a reckoning from their corporate benefactors.  

A growing number of companies announced over the weekend they are suspending campaign contributions to those eight Republican senators and 139 House Republicans. 

The list so far includes Blue Cross Blue Shield, Commerce Bank and Marriott International. And four of the country's biggest banks — JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley — are suspending all political giving, Bloomberg News's Yuegi Yang and Sridhar Natarajan report.

More could be coming. 

As the dust settles from the riot at the Capitol on Wednesday, an even darker, more violent picture of the event is emerging. It is accelerating the congressional Democratic push for impeachment, a move some Republicans now say they would support. The bipartisan condemnation of President Trump and his GOP enablers makes it safer for publicly traded corporations to follow suit. 

“We want you to be assured that we will not support candidates who do not respect the rule of law,” Candi Wolff, who leads Citi’s global government affairs team, wrote in an email to the firm’s employees Sunday. “We intend to pause our contributions during the quarter as the country goes through the Presidential transition and hopefully emerges from these events stronger and more united.” 

She noted the bank’s political action committee contributed $1,000 to the campaign of Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), who helped organize opposition to certifying Biden’s electoral college win. Over the last two years, the PAC doled out $740,000, with 56 percent of it going to Republicans. 

Blue Cross Blue Shield CEO Kim Keck said the health insurer reached its decision “in light of this week’s violent, shocking assault on the United States Capitol, and the votes of some members of Congress to subvert the results of November’s election by challenging Electoral College results.” 

And a Marriott spokesperson, in a statement to the newsletter Popular Information, said the company has “taken the destructive events at the Capitol to undermine a legitimate and fair election into consideration and will be pausing political giving from our Political Action Committee to those who voted against certification of the election.”  

That newsletter contacted 144 companies about their plans and got some mixed replies from others. Several said they are taking the matter into consideration, including AT&T, Bank of America, Bayer, Berkshire Hathaway Energy and Ford. Others simply said they are reviewing their policies around political giving, including Amgen, CVS Health, ExxonMobil, FedEx and Target. 

Pressure will keep building. 

“The Lincoln Project, an anti-Trump group, in the coming days will launch a multimillion-dollar ad campaign targeting companies that bankroll Republicans who voted against certifying the results of the election, pushing those firms to cease donations to these and other Republicans,” Todd C. Frankel and Jeff Stein report

The group plans to launch television ads targeting companies and their leaders, and their workers, too, aiming to "destabilize the companies’ operations by fomenting employee rebellions,” according to Steve Schmidt, a Lincoln Project co-founder. Per Todd and Jeff, he noted AT&T, BlackRock and Charles Schwab all give to Republicans. 

No matter their decision, companies are stepping into fraught territory. 

“All companies will receive heightened scrutiny of their political giving — from employees, customers, investors and activists — in the next several election cycles,” says Harry W. Clark, a strategist who advises corporate leaders. “During the 2022 election cycle, companies will face an extremely high hurdle before deciding to contribute to any Trump-associated Republican, including any of those who opposed certifying Biden’s victory.”

Clark says executives weighing how to proceed shouldn’t rush. “A critically important strategic decision on corporate-wide political giving shouldn’t be made while the embers of the January 6th Capitol insurrection are still smoldering.”

It isn’t just a matter of political giving. Other prominent brands are reconsidering ties to Trump. 

The PGA of America said Sunday night it is canceling its agreement to hold its 2022 championship tournament at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J. 

Stripe, the online payment processor, will no longer work with Trump’s campaign website, per the Wall Street Journal. A number of social media companies have banned the president from their platforms (more on that below). 

And on Friday, real estate brokerage firm JLL said it would no longer represent Trump’s company in its efforts to sell the Trump hotel in downtown Washington,” David Fahrenthold, Jonathan O'Connell and Barry Svrluga report. “JLL ‘is not going to be involved in selling that hotel,’ a firm spokesperson said. The company did not cite a reason, but the decision to end its relationship with the Trump Organization happened after the riot.”

Mob attack fallout

Democrats split on impeachment push.

No president has ever been impeached twice: “Both sides are treading carefully, aware that many voters hope Congress will prevent Trump from provoking further violence, but also want Biden to be free to take immediate action on the pandemic and a faltering economy. Some Democrats said privately that they are wary of impeachment but unsure how to slow its momentum given the intensifying passions against Trump,” Felicia Sonmez, Mike DeBonis and Juliet Eilperin report.

“The conflict confronts Biden with his first test on what could be an early, incendiary dilemma facing his presidency: how hard to pursue accountability for Trump and those in his orbit. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said the House would ‘proceed with bringing impeachment legislation to the Floor’ but announced no firm timeline to do so. First, she said, Democrats plan to pass a resolution calling on Vice President Pence and the Cabinet to remove Trump under the provisions of the 25th Amendment.”

Some House Democrats hope to impeach President Trump for a second time for high crimes and misdemeanors. Here is what that accelerated process might entail. (Video: The Washington Post)
Trump has been kicked off Twitter.

Parler may be gone for good: “Amazon suspended the pro-Trump social network Parler from its Web-hosting service this weekend, a move that threatens to darken the site indefinitely after its users glorified the recent riot at the U.S. Capitol,” Tony Romm and Rachel Lerman report.

“The move by Amazon Web Services, or AWS, marks the latest and most crippling blow for the pro-Trump social network, which has emerged as a haven for conservative users who have fled more mainstream Silicon Valley sites that crack down on harmful, viral falsehoods online. Earlier this week, Apple and Google removed Parler’s app from their stores for smartphone downloads, similarly citing concerns that posts on Parler could contribute to violence.” (Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

  • Meanwhile: Trump and the White House are considering a massive push against Twitter and other tech companies that could begin as soon as today, per Tony and Josh Dawsey. The president has signaled that he is in negotiations to find a new social media home.

Other news:

  • Lawmakers may have been exposed to coronavirus during the raid: “Two House aides confirmed to The Washington Post that Brian Monahan, the attending physician to Congress, was referring to a room where scores of House members were taken to during the riot. Video first published by Punchbowl News on Friday showed maskless Republicans — including Reps. Andy Biggs (Ariz.), Michael Cloud (Tex.), Markwayne Mullin (Okla.) and Scott Perry (Pa.) — refusing masks offered by Democratic Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (Del.) while in the room,” Paulina Firozi, Amy B Wang and Mike DeBonis report.
  • Thousands of law school alumni and students push for disbarment of Sens. Hawley and Cruz: “More than 5,000 law school alumni and students have signed a petition calling for the disbarment of Sens. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) over what it says were their “efforts to undermine the peaceful transition of power after a free and fair election,” Valerie Strauss reports.

Market movers

Market rally illustrates recovery bets.

The worry now is that stocks may be getting over extended: “The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose for the first week of 2021, marking its fourth-straight weekly gain despite a mob storming the U.S. Capitol Wednesday and a decline in nonfarm payrolls reported Friday,” the Wall Street Journal's Michael Wursthorn reports.

“When economically sensitive sectors and bond yields rise together, it often signals Wall Street is embarking on the classic reflation trade that anticipates a full-fledged economic recovery … While the case for economic recovery appears sound and many fund managers expect the market advance to continue, skeptics say stocks remain vulnerable to fallout from the pandemic, including still-high unemployment and questions about the pace of the vaccine rollout. Supercharged gains in assets from some favored stocks to cryptocurrencies to some commodities could turn out to be unsustainable.”

  • Almost everybody is winning: “Emboldened by Federal Reserve stimulus, vaccines and the psychological conditioning that arises when no bad patch lasts, everyone from retail newbies to institutional managers is rushing to cash in on the 10-month-old meltup. Of course, it’s possible that all of this could continue for weeks, if not months, without so much of even a little reversal … But bubble warnings are starting to blare from every corner,” Bloomberg News's Joanna Ossinger, Lu Wang, and Elena Popina report.
  • Bank stocks are back: “Whether they maintain that momentum depends on the success of Biden’s agenda, Federal Reserve monetary policy and how quickly covid-19 is brought to heel. Investors have been optimistic about economic growth, with banks enjoying a bump in interest rates as they increase lending, deal-making and trading,” Bloomberg News's Felice Maranz reports.

The transition

Brookings fellow is a leading contender for a senior Treasury post.

Nellie Liang was previously one of Trump's Fed picks: “Liang is being considered for a position as the U.S. Treasury’s undersecretary for domestic finance. She was nominated by Trump to a seat on the Fed’s seven-member board of governors in 2018, but her nomination ran into opposition from Senate Republicans. Her nomination never had a committee hearing, and she withdrew from consideration after her nomination expired in early 2019,” the WSJ's Nick Timiraos reports.

“No final decisions have been made and an announcement isn’t likely to happen before Jan. 20, when Biden will take office.”

When superpowers collide

China signals it will fight back.

Beijing says it will counter foreign trade laws: “China’s Ministry of Commerce published new rules for countering ‘unjustified’ laws and restrictions imposed by foreign countries on Chinese companies and citizens, as economic relations between Beijing and Washington deteriorate,” Reuters's Josh Horwitz reports.

“The rules on ‘unjustified extra-territorial application of foreign legislation’ were posted on department’s website and established a ‘working mechanism’ to assess the legal implications of such incidents. The commerce department will then assess a case for its potential violation of international law, impact on China’s sovereignty and national security, and impact on Chinese citizens.”

Pocket change

Amazon and Walmart are telling some customers to skip returns.

It can be cheaper for them to just let you keep it: “For inexpensive items or large ones that would incur hefty shipping fees, it is often cheaper to refund the purchase price and let customers keep the products,” the WSJ's Suzanne Kapner and Paul Ziobro report.

The relatively new approach, popularized by Amazon and a few other chains, is being adopted more broadly during the pandemic, as a surge in online shopping forces companies to rethink how they handle returns.

CES 2021 is still happening — without Vegas, crowds, prototypes or germs (Heather Kelly)

Daybook

Tuesday:

  • The Peterson Institute for International Economics holds an event on taxing global capital
  • KB Home and Albertsons are among the notable companies reporting their earnings, per Kiplinger 

Wednesday:

  • The Center for American Progress holds an event on its new policy framework to rebuild America over the next decade

Thursday:

  • The Labor Department reports weekly jobless claims
  • Former Treasury secretary Robert Rubin, former OMB director Peter Orszag and Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz unveil their budget framework for an uncertain world during a PIIE event
  • Delta Air Lines, BlackRock and Taiwan Semiconductor are among the notable companies reporting their earnings

Friday:

  • The Census Bureau releases estimates of retail and food sales for December
  • JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and Wells Fargo are among the notable companies reporting their earnings

The funnies

Bull session

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Jan. 8 spoke to Lesley Stahl, two days after the Capitol was breached by a pro-Trump mob. Here are some highlights. (Video: The Washington Post)
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