Corporations Grapple With Giving Guidelines

Companies wondering how to address last week’s insurrection at the Capitol have a few gating questions to determine their response:

  • Can corporations ride out this storm silently or will they be forced to take a position
  • Is an across-the-board pause in giving appropriate when only Republicans supported challenges to the election?
  • Must Republicans who supported these efforts — especially leaders such as House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) and Republican Senate Campaign Chief Sen. Rick Scott — step down from their current positions or alter their behavior to continue to serve effectively?  
  • And for customers and voters, will a majority punish companies who fail to take a stand? Or will most quickly fall back to their party affiliations in determining how to respond?

While many companies recognize a need to do something, there’s no “goldilocks” consensus position at this point.

Instead, companies seem to be proceeding according to their own values and priorities, recognizing that any position is likely to anger one or both political parties and a middle ground will be difficult to find

Some major corporations have pledged to pause all political donations, with others opting to cut off donations to the 147 lawmakers who objected to certifying Biden’s Electoral College victory.  

Facebook, Microsoft and Google are all pausing political spending. Meanwhile, a UPS spokesperson tells Politico Influence that the shipping company is suspending its PAC giving “for now,” and some of the country’s largest financial institutions like Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and Mastercard have all temporarily halted political contributions to members of both parties.  

On the other hand, Airbnb said its PAC will update its giving policies to “withhold support” from those who voted against election certification. And others like the Dow Chemical Company have gone so far as to request refunds from Sens. Josh Hawley (R-MO) and Roger Marshall (R-KS) and other leaders of what some have dubbed the “insurrection caucus.”  

While some brands may decide to avoid major, long lasting policy changes now in hopes the storm dissipates, questions about how to respond to the attack on the Capitol could continue to face political leaders, corporations and individual voters for many months down the road.

Do What I Say, Not What I Do

President Trump is poised to become the first president to be impeached twice—and a majority of Americans support it

House Democrats plan to vote tomorrow to impeach President Trump for “inciting insurrection” if tonight’s request of Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment stripping Trump of his powers is denied. 

Six in 10 Americans (59%) say they support the House of Representatives impeaching President Trump for a second time – of those, 48% say they strongly support impeachment. However, roughly a third of Americans (32%) say they oppose impeachment while nine percent say they don’t know. It’s no surprise these feelings fall strongly on partisan lines

  • 73% of Democrats say they strongly support the House of Representatives impeaching President Trump for the second time while
  • 65% of Republicans say they strongly oppose the second impeachment process.

Although we typically see issues like this also divided by age groups, in the case of a second impeachment, majorities of all age groups say they support the second impeachment process for President Trump.

What We’re Tracking: Education

This is the latest installment in our series highlighting the policy areas we’re watching leading up to inauguration–and how we’re expecting President-elect Biden’s administration to approach them. Read our previous entries on Health Care, Food & Ag, Tech, Climate and Foreign Policy.

More federal dollars are on the way for education. 

The bill President Trump signed in late December will deliver much-delayed annual funding for federal education programs and $82 billion in education-focused COVID relief

K-12 schools will receive $54 billion to spend on PPE, cleaning supplies, technology and more while higher education institutions will see $23 billion to support student tuition aid.

State governors will receive $4.1 billion for education, with $2.8 billion of that sum for private school COVID relief. Those dollars are already on the way— and more may still come.

In the short term, President-elect Biden’s Secretary of Education nominee Miguel Cardona will focus on reopening schools and measuring learning loss, with his long-term goal to close the achievement gap

While many education groups have praised Cardona’s classroom teaching background, others express concern that he hadn’t taught long enough and that he lacks sufficient management experience. But with the Senate in Democratic hands, his confirmation seems secure. (Deputy Secretary Mick Zais is currently in charge following Secretary Betsy DeVos’ early exit). 

Biden’s incoming staff are already discussing major changes in higher education, including a legislative push to erase $10,000 in student loan debt for every borrower and a possible extension of the existing pause on student loans and collections.

Responding to Mayhem

Corporate America is responding swiftly and decisively to reject the breach of the U.S. Capitol, speaking out on extraordinary political upheaval often in unequivocal terms. 

Today and in the next two weeks before President-elect Joe Biden is scheduled to be sworn into office, brands must face decisions about their posture in a time of unrest and uncertainty. Here is what some are saying: 

  • The National Association of Manufacturers went so far as to suggest Vice President Mike Pence should “seriously consider” invoking the 25th Amendment to remove President Donald Trump from power. The association, speaking on behalf of its 14,000 member companies, accused Trump of inciting violence to retain power and to denounce any elected leader who defends him.
  • Comments were issued quickly, powerfully and unequivocally – often by the CEOs themselves on social media. That included heads of Johnson & Johnson, Salesforce, Citigroup, J.P. Morgan, Blackrock, General Motors, IBM, Microsoft, Goldman Sachs, Cisco and others. 
  • Many of those statements were from well-known consumer facing companies on the coasts, but not all. Cardinal Health, a Ohio-based healthcare services company based in the Midwest, decried the violence and declared, “Our democratic processes worked as designed to determine the election results, and the transition of power in our country must proceed peacefully.” 
  • Some leaders addressed comments internally in recognition that employees would be on edge by what they saw unfolding. Google’s Sundar Pichai sent an internal email condemning the violence and encouraging employees to prioritize their health and wellbeing and offering support resources. 
  • Of course, there were some prominent corporate leaders who chose not to speak out and in some cases are facing criticism for that today

Organizations should carefully consider their conduct and messaging today and as uncertainty looms ahead in the next couple of weeks. There’s no blanket rule – considerations to be made on a case-by-case basis include: 

  • Whether to suspend advertising until there is a return to normal, or at least closely review messages for tone appropriateness.
  • Assessing other planned appearances or announcements to determine if the timing is right or they should be delayed. Audiences may have a hard time concentrating on anything other than what is dominating the news right now.  
  • Whether a blanket suspension is appropriate or it’s better to demonstrate it’s time to get back to business.

There’ll Be Time Enough for Counting When the Dealing’s Done

While we know Congress will eventually reject Republican objections to several states’ electoral counts and will certify the election results for President-Elect Joe Biden, several outstanding questions remain less than 24 hours before the process kicks off. 

Four things we know:

1. Vice President Pence is expected to preside over a Joint Session of Congress in House chambers and will call the state-by-state roll of election results.

2. A Trump-allied lawmaker will likely submit a written objection over the results from one or more states.

3. Upon objection the joint session is suspended, senators withdraw from the House and each chamber meets separately to debate the objection and vote whether to count the electoral votes in question. Debate on the objection is limited to two hours, with members allowed to speak only once for no more than five minutes.

4. Congress would then reconvene for the Joint Session, report their vote results and proceed to the next state in the roll call. A majority of both chambers must vote to reject the electoral count for the state in question.

Four things we don’t know:

1. How many states will Republicans object to? News reports indicate Republican members are focusing on Arizona, Georgia and Pennsylvania.

2. Which Republican members will vote to object to which states?  

3. How long will this process go on? In a letter to her caucus, Speaker Pelosi indicated the process could stretch out into Wednesday evening and perhaps beyond. Watch for whether two-hour objections are considered state-by-state rather than jointly.

4. Finally, what role will Vice President Pence play in the proceedings? There is still some uncertainty about whether and how long he will preside. Although most legal scholars indicate his role is rather limited, President Trump has been openly pressuring him to help overturn the results.

What We’re Tracking: Foreign Policy

This is the latest installment in our series highlighting the policy areas we’re watching leading up to inauguration–and how we’re expecting President-elect Biden’s administration to approach them. Read our previous entries on Health Care, Food & Ag, Tech and Climate.

Upcoming diplomatic deadlines will require President-elect Joe Biden’s immediate attention despite his intent to focus primarily on domestic issues like the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic crisis.

The New START arms control treaty—which limits U.S. and Russian nuclear weapon stockpiles—is set to expire two weeks after Biden is sworn in unless the U.S. and Russia agree on an extension before then. 

If the February 5 deadline passes without a deal, there will be no major arms control agreement or coordination managing 90% of the world’s nuclear weapons.

The recent cyberattack that affected multiple U.S. government agencies and Fortune 500 companies—widely attributed to Russian actors—is further complicating the new administration’s posture towards Russia. Biden’s team has promised to respond to the attack with more than “just sanctions.”

Biden will also face self-imposed deadlines upon his inauguration, such as his promise to rejoin the Paris climate accord and the World Health Organization on his first day in office—kickstarting his multilateralist approach to foreign policy. 

He’ll also face deadlines on a variety of trade issues such as tariff renewals and bilateral trade agreement negotiations.

Beyond his first few weeks in office, Biden will face critical decisions about:

  • How and when to rejoin the Iran nuclear deal
  • How to end U.S. involvement in “forever wars”, and
  • How to properly balance cooperation with China on global issues such as climate change while countering its threats to U.S. security and prosperity.

COVID-19: Biden’s Plan of Attack

President-elect Joe Biden is prioritizing the reopening of K-8 schools and addressing the economic fallout during his first 100 days in office.

He also aims to distribute 100 million vaccine shots – inoculating 50 million people – during that time, indicating he’ll invoke the Defense Production Act to compel companies to produce vaccine materials and PPE

To accelerate the nation’s vaccination rate, the Biden White House COVID-19 Response team will include supply chain experts to provide guidance. They’ll work with struggling local and state authorities–who have administered just a fraction of the 15 million doses sent to states— to develop a comprehensive distribution strategy

The president-elect inherits a vaccine rollout marred by persistent misinformation, a continued lack of public trust, and a bureaucratic backlog under President Trump, who has frequently downplayed or disregarded the CDC’s recommendations and disputed the staggering coronavirus death toll. 

Biden has also requested all Americans wear a mask during his first 100 days, declaring mask-wearing is “not a political statement. It’s a patriotic duty” in contrast to Trump’s skeptical rhetoric

He will require mask-wearing in federal buildings and during interstate travel.