COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — This week’s Senate runoff in Georgia marks the end of a long campaign season — the first since 2020, after which 147 members of Congress objected to the results of the presidential election despite no findings of widespread fraud. Many of those members ran for re-election, with support from major corporations based in Ohio.
Some companies, after making public statements about suspending support for candidates who voted against certifying the election results on January 6, 2021, quietly resumed donating to their campaigns.
“(Corporations) are the most active lobbyists. They’re the most active with the pressure, and how they’re contributing and to whom they’re contributing helps us to get a sense of who’s influencing the agenda,” said Suzanne Marilley, an associate professor of political science at Capital University.
Marilley and NBC4 Investigates reviewed campaign finance data compiled by ProPublica showing many Fortune 500 companies donated to campaigns of candidates who objected to the results of the 2020 presidential election, months after pausing support.
“That’s scary,” Marilley said. “It’s called getting off the hook too easily.”
Ohio is home to multiple Fortune 500 companies. NBC4 Investigates contacted the ones that appeared in ProPublica’s database.
1. Marathon Petroleum
The Findlay-based company donated $306,500 to the campaigns of 54 election objectors, accounting for 30% of the company’s total contributions. Rep. Jim Banks (R-Indiana) received the largest amount from Marathon Petroleum, at $15,000 in campaign contributions.
Marathon did not respond to NBC4’s request for comment.
2. Goodyear Tire & Rubber
Headquartered in Akron, Goodyear donated $37,500 to the campaigns of 12 election objectors, accounting for 34% of the company’s total contributions. Representatives Tom Cole (R-Oklahoma), Jason Smith (R-Missouri) and Frank D. Lucas (R-Oklahoma) received the largest contributions from Goodyear, at $5,000 each.
Goodyear did not respond to NBC4’s request for comment.
FirstEnergy, based in Akron, donated $30,000 to the campaigns of six election objectors, accounting for 26% of the company’s total contributions. Campaigns for Reps. Glenn Thompson, John Joyce, Guy Reschenthaler, Lloyd Smucker and Mike Kelly, all Republicans representing Pennsylvania, received $5,000 apiece from FirstEnergy. Rep. Carol Miller (R-West Virginia) also received $5,000.
Following Jan. 6, 2021, FirstEnergy said publicly it was suspending its support for candidates who objected to the 2020 presidential election.
The company sent a statement to NBC4:
“FirstEnergy does not make corporate contributions to federal candidates or political parties. The FirstEnergy Corp. Political Action Committee (FEPAC) was established for employees to collectively support political candidates, political organizations and ballot measures using voluntary contributions from the company’s eligible employees.
“FEPAC resumed contributions in April 2022 after pausing more than a year for a review of political engagement and the development of new policies and practices. FEPAC makes each contribution decision by considering a variety of factors, including the support of energy policies.”
4. Procter & Gamble
Based in Cincinnati, Procter & Gamble donated $30,000 to the campaigns of 10 election objectors, accounting for 8% of the company’s political spending. Reps. Steven J. Chabot (R-Ohio) and Steve Scalise (R-Louisiana) benefitted the most from the company’s giving, each receiving $5,000.
Procter & Gamble did not respond to NBC4’s request for comment.
5. American Electric Power
The Columbus corporation donated $27,500 to the campaigns of 10 election objectors, accounting for 21% of the company’s total contributions. Rep. Carol Miller received the most from AEP, with $10,000 in campaign contributions.
AEP publicly said after Jan. 6, 2021 that it was suspending political contributions to all federal candidates. The company resumed contributions in August 2021.
“As an energy company, AEP works with leaders from both political parties on issues that affect our ability to deliver safe, reliable electricity to our customers,” said Tammy Ridout, an AEP spokesperson, in an email. “Our participation in the political process and political contributions are focused on supporting candidates who understand and work toward solutions on energy and business industry issues that are important to our customers, employees, investors and other stakeholders. We engage on topics including infrastructure investment, grid security and the clean energy transition with legislators and policymakers across the board.”
AEP discloses information of its political activity and policy initiatives on its website.
Headquartered in Cincinnati, Kroger donated $19,500 to the campaigns of 10 election objectors, accounting for 15% of the company’s total contributions. Campaigns for Reps. Chabot and Mike Kelly (R-Pennsylvania) received the most from Kroger at $4,500 each.
Kroger did not respond to NBC4’s request for comment.
7. Fifth Third Bancorp
The Cincinnati-based bank donated $11,000 to the campaigns of two election objectors, accounting for 8% of the company’s total contributions. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-Missouri) received $10,000 from the company.
A spokesperson for Fifth Third confirmed the accuracy of the data but declined to comment on the company’s guidelines for PAC contributions.
The insurance company headquartered in Columbus only spent 1% of its campaign donations on candidates who objected to the results of the 2020 presidential election. Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-California), currently in the running for House Speaker, received $1,500 of the $4,500 Nationwide donated across four objectors’ campaigns.
“We believe in our political process, supporting candidates and causes aligned with the needs of our members and promoting the protection we’re able to offer them. As always, our financial contributions will comply with the law,” said Joe Case, a spokesperson for Nationwide.
While Intel is not based in Ohio, the tech giant has become a major corporate player in the Buckeye State since announcing plans to build a multibillion-dollar semiconductor manufacturing campus in New Albany.
Intel donated $92,500 to 29 objectors, accounting for 9% of the company’s total political donations. Of those candidates, Rep. Bill Johnson (R-Ohio) received the most, with $7,500.
Intel was among the corporations that publicly announced after the Capitol riots that it would suspend financial support to members of Congress who objected to the results of the presidential election. The company resumed donating to those candidates in March 2022.
“Intel’s Political Action Committee continuously evaluates its contributions to ensure that they align with our policies and priorities. Over the past year, we have implemented additional due diligence processes as Intel resumed contributions that were previously halted,” said Linda Qian, a spokesperson for Intel. “We continue to divide our contributions evenly among Republicans and Democrats as we work to build a bipartisan coalition of members of Congress who share our vision for strengthening America’s semiconductor industry, innovation capabilities and technological leadership.”
Marilley points out that companies will often contribute to more than one candidate vying for the same seat.
“It’s kind of like Vegas,” she said, noting that incumbents and committee chairs have an easier time raising money. “They’ll put more money and just give more money to the incumbents who have a higher likelihood of reelection.”