Ever since former President Donald Trump inspired a deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, corporations have wrestled with whether or not to give money to the GOP lawmakers who tried to overturn the 2020 election results. For instance, the automaker Toyota initially defended such donations, then buckled under public pressure last week and pledged to end them.
But labor unions are also a significant source of political contributions, and while they tend to steer far more money to Democrats, some spread their contributions around to both political parties ― including to members of Congress who didn’t want to certify Joe Biden’s victory in the Electoral College.
Through May, the political action committees of at least six major unions contributed to the campaigns of 13 of the 139 House Republicans who wanted to throw out the election results of either Arizona or Pennsylvania. None of the money HuffPost identified went directly to the campaigns of the eight GOP senators who objected, though some went to a party committee that would work to support those lawmakers.
All these contributions were made after Jan. 6, the day Trump supporters stormed the Capitol, leading to five deaths.
The Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) contributed to the reelection efforts of eight objectors: Rep. Lloyd Smucker (Pa.), $2,000; Rep. Guy Reschenthaler (Pa.), $2,000; Rep. Barry Loudermilk (Ga.), $2,000; Rep. Adrian Smith (Neb.), $1,000; Rep. Ron Estes (Kans.), $1,000; Rep. Richard Hudson (N.C.), $1,000; Rep. Kevin Hern (Okla.), $1,000; and Rep. Greg Steube (Fla.), $1,000.
The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) contributed $5,000 to the campaign of Rep. Jeff Van Drew, the former New Jersey Democrat who opposed the impeachment of Trump, defected to the GOP in 2019 and vowed “undying support” for the former president.
The International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), arguably Biden’s closest ally in the labor movement, gave money to the reelection efforts of two members who did not want to certify Biden’s victory: Van Drew, $2,500; and Rep. Rob Wittman (Va.), $5,000. The IAFF was the first major union to endorse Biden for president during his campaign.
The International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers, better known simply as the Ironworkers, contributed $2,500 to the campaign of Florida Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart.
The Seafarers International Union of North America contributed $1,000 to the campaign of Florida Rep. Brian Mast.
Several unions also contributed to Republican campaign committees. While these contributions are not made directly to individual candidate’s campaigns, the money still ends up going to the reelection efforts of lawmakers who objected to Biden’s victory. That’s especially true in the House, where more than half of the GOP caucus voted to challenge the results.
The unions that contributed to the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) for House GOP candidates included the IAFF, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association and the National Association of Letter Carriers, which each gave $15,000. The National Rural Letter Carriers’ Association gave $15,000 to the NRCC and another $15,000 to the committee’s building fund.
“Through May, the political action committees of at least six major unions contributed to the campaigns of a handful of the 139 House Republicans who wanted to throw out the election results.”
ALPA gave $15,000 apiece to the NRCC and the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), and another $45,000 to each committee’s building fund. The Ironworkers gave $15,000 apiece to the NRCC and the NRSC. The chair of the NRSC is Florida Sen. Rick Scott, one of the eight objectors to Biden’s victory in the Senate.
That tally includes only national and international unions, not local affiliates of unions that may have made their own contributions. While most of the amounts are relatively small, even contributions of $1,000 can give donors access to lawmakers that they might not otherwise have.
HuffPost reached out to the unions above to ask if they had considered withholding contributions to lawmakers who did not want to certify Biden’s win, the way some corporations have. Most declined to comment for this story.
UMWA spokesperson Phil Smith said the UMWA contributed to Rogers’ campaign because of the work the congressman did in getting retired miners’ pensions and health care protected in the 2019 year-end spending bill.
“He represents probably 6,000 or 7,000 of our pensioners whose pensions were secured because of his work in Congress,” Smith said.
Several of the unions above have been more likely than other unions to give money to Republicans each cycle, making it less surprising they would end up making contributions to election objectors.
ALPA, for instance, has increasingly divided its money to both parties through its PAC over the last decade. In 2020, it gave $907,000 to Democrats and $597,000 to Republicans, according to Open Secrets. The UMWA, which, years ago, used to contribute almost exclusively to Democrats, gave $386,000 to Democrats and $109,000 to Republicans last year through its PAC.
Meanwhile, the PACs of large public-sector unions like the American Federation of Teachers and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees give almost no money to Republican candidates.
Following the insurrection, dozens of corporations announced they were suspending their contributions to GOP lawmakers who had objected to certifying the election results, saying they would begin reviews of their PACs’ giving. While some companies have continued to withhold their money, many have resumed their contributions.
Walmart, for instance, said it would put its donations to objectors on hold, but then gave $15,000 apiece to the NRCC and the NRSC, and another $15,000 apiece to their building funds. General Electric made the same vow, then contributed $15,000 apiece to the NRCC and NRSC.
A report last month from the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington found that 111 of the 147 Republicans who objected to the results have reported receiving corporate money since Jan. 6.