Do you have a stock portfolio, retirement account, or pension in the US? You’re probably invested in multiple S&P 500 companies.
In light of the violence at the US Capitol and votes by some members of Congress against certifying the presidential election results on Jan. 6, many of these companies have announced adjustments to their political contributions. canvassed every member of the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index to learn how they’re changing their policies. We called and emailed the 500 firms that comprise the index, in addition to collecting news reports and company statements. They are some of the largest and important US-listed, publicly-traded firms; at the time of the certification vote, their combined market value was about $34 trillion.
Together, S&P 500 companies comprise the bulk of many investors’ portfolios, whether directly through individual stock purchases or passively through index funds. Exchange traded funds (ETFs) that track the S&P 500 are the most popular ETF investments and are run by firms like State Street, Vanguard, and BlackRock.
It is illegal for companies to contribute directly to federal political campaigns
US election laws prevent firms from using company funds to support a political candidate. Instead, employees of those companies can make voluntary contributions to company-associated Political Action Committees. Known as PACs, they make contributions to candidates on the contributors’ behalf. Companies can support the effort by covering some of the fund’s operational costs.
The trade groups and industry lobbies that companies belong to typically make large numbers of contributions to the industry’s supporters in Congress. These data do not cover the trade groups that lobby on companies’ behalf.
Companies that have stopped PAC contributions to politicians who voted against election certification
Some of these companies have said that these contribution bans are only for a candidate’s current term, or the current session of Congress. Others didn’t give an end date—which means the ban could be forever, or it could last until the company thinks the odds of public scrutiny are lower.
Companies that stopped making PAC contributions to all politicians
Some companies want nothing to do with politics right now; others are just following their typical contribution schedule. The scrutiny of donations has led to some companies to say they’ll “pause” or “suspend” all PAC contributions. Some suspensions will last for a set period ranging from 30 days to a year; others are indefinite, or will end once a company has reviewed its policies. Democrats—who all voted to certify the election results—have cried foul. “I don’t know what you gain by cutting everyone off. You should penalize those who are responsible,” senator Ben Cardin told Politico.
The reality of campaign contributions, though, is that there needs to be a campaign to contribute to. Withholding donations for a quarter or a year is a paper tiger, especially if the PAC usually only gives to candidates in election years.
Companies that have made no concrete changes to their PAC’s contributions
A number of companies in this list indicated that they were reviewing their policies but had yet to make any changes. Others said that they will continue to evaluate contributions on a candidate by candidate basis—including their votes on certification—to ensure that their money is supporting people with similar values to the company.
Companies that are making other changes to their PAC’s policies
Some companies wouldn’t say outright that they would stop contributions to politicians who voted against election certification, but did make explicit statements to indicate that they won’t support candidates they determine don’t “respect the rule of law,” for instance. Others said they were reevaluating their contributions.
PACs “review” and “evaluate” candidates in every election cycle. As such, a company that has planned reviews and evaluations of contributions is listed as has having made no policy changes. A company that is “reevaluating” its contributions is listed as changing its policies.
Companies that don’t have PACs or say they don’t contribute to federal campaigns
Not every company has a PAC. Those that do may not ever give to members of Congress, or may not have in the most recent election cycle.