More Republican Attorneys General Association donors freeze their financial support
Microsoft, NRG, American Electric Power, CenterPoint Energy and others tell Documented they will suspend their 2021 membership
**This piece was updated later on January 20, 2020 to include statements from DTE Energy, Boeing PAC, Securus Technologies, OrthoPAC, Intuit, and Alkermes, all of which have also now suspended their funding of RAGA.**
Two weeks ago, the March to Save America rally in D.C. turned into a violent mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol and left five people dead. The Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA), along with its sister organization the Rule of Law Defense Fund (RLDF), which actively promoted the event, have been losing corporate donors ever since. Today we add a host of new and significant corporations to that list.
An increasingly number of new companies have told Documented that they are either ending or suspending their membership with RAGA.
Microsoft and three large utility companies - NRG, American Electric Power, and CenterPoint Energy - all told us that they are not renewing their RAGA membership in 2021.
Western Union, Amgen and The American Property Casualty Insurers Association PAC all told us that they are conducting an internal review of their giving, and their funding to RAGA is currently on hold.
Affirm, the online financing company, told Documented that they have not renewed their 2021 membership yet and are “continuing to monitor developments related to the riots.” “We will not support any organizations found to have contributed to the appalling acts that took place in the U.S. Capitol,” a company spokesperson told Documented.
Statements from these companies are below, along with more details about their past funding to RAGA.
How did we get here?
The day after the riot, Documented obtained and published the recording of a robocall made by the Rule of Law Defense Fund (RLDF) calling for people to “march to the Capitol building and call on Congress to stop the steal.” “We are hoping patriots like you will join us to continue to fight to protect the integrity of our elections,” the voice on the call said.
RLDF is based out of the office of the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA), with which it shares its leadership and staff. RAGA has spent the months since the election spreading doubts about Biden’s clear victory, as we have previously reported.
Documented has also revealed that RLDF was named on the website of the March to Save America, under its "Coalition Partners" before that website was deleted. An earlier version of the site included RAGA on that list before it was switched out for RLDF.
The story quickly became major news. The Washington Post, The New York Times, Bloomberg, NBC, The Hill, and The Guardian all reported on the robocall. This weekend, the Washington Post ran another front page story, which looked at how the riot was fueled by groups including RAGA and RLDF:
“On Jan. 5, the attorneys general group, which is based in Washington, used an affiliated nonprofit called the Rule of Law Defense Fund to pay for a robocall that urged supporters to march on the Capitol at 1 p.m. on Jan. 6 to ‘call on Congress to stop the steal.’ A recording of the robocall was first obtained by Documented, a left-leaning watchdog group.”
Documented began contacting all of RAGA’s 2020 donors, asking if the group’s work promoting the March to Save America would impact their membership in 2021.
The Edison Electric Institute, Smithfield Foods, Aflac, Doordash, and the Recording Industry Association of America all told us they were suspending their funding. We broke that story last week. Popular Information, the newsletter published by Judd Legum, then reported that Instacart, Yelp, and Facebook were all doing the same. The University of Phoenix told Legum “We have asked RAGA to return our contribution to us as soon as possible."
Why do companies fund RAGA?
RAGA was founded in 1999 as a part of the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC), spending millions every election cycle to help Republicans win Attorney General seats. In 2014, Republicans won a majority of state attorneys general positions for the first time in U.S. history. That was a huge win for RAGA, which then spun off from RSLC to create its own organization. Companies might want Republicans to win Attorney General races, but there is another (and probably more important reason) they fund RAGA.
It’s really about getting access to the Attorneys General and their staff. RAGA donors, which pay annual membership fees on a sliding scale beginning at $15,000, can attend a variety of functions, dinners, retreats, summits, briefings, etc. The larger the donation, the more access you get. For example, donors that give at least $50,000 a year get to lead an issue briefing with the Attorneys General. High roller donors that give more than $250,000 get some unspecified set of benefits that you can only find out “upon request.” We can only imagine what these benefits might include…
This access matters to donors because Attorneys General have such enormous power. Their actions can cost companies a lot of money. For example, in 2020, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, recently nominated by President-elect Biden to be HHS Secretary, secured a $344m judgement against Johnson & Johnson for deceptive marketing practices.
Statements from RAGA donors
Below are the statements from the latest batch of companies distancing themselves from RAGA. For statements from the last set, see here.
A spokesperson from Microsoft responded very simply to the question we asked: “will Microsoft Corporation fund RAGA in 2021?” “No,” they wrote by email, and in a follow-up confirmed that this decision was because of RAGA's role in promoting the March to Save America rally. Microsoft gave RAGA at least $36,622 in 2020 according to tax filings, and has given it more than $350,000 since 2014.
“CenterPoint Energy will not make any contributions to the Republican Attorneys General Association in 2021 and is reviewing its strategic giving strategy and will re-valuate in 2022,” a spokesperson told Documented. The Fortune 500 electric and natural gas utility gave RAGA at least $25,000 in 2020, and $190,000 in total since 2014.
NRG Energy is another utility that is dumping RAGA. “On January 14th NRG terminated its membership with the Republican Attorneys General Association, effective immediately. NRG will continue to ensure its giving strategies and affiliations are in alignment with company values,” a spokesperson told Documented. NRG gave RAGA at least $25,000 in 2020, and $15,000 in 2019 (the first year it had given).
American Electric Power is also suspending its funding, and that makes three utilities this week. “AEP forcefully condemns the violence that happened at the U.S. Capitol and the divisive actions that led up to it. As a nation, a company and individuals, we need to focus our energy on building unity and addressing the challenges we face together. We have paused all political contributions and will be reviewing our criteria for supporting candidates and organizations in the future,” read an emailed statement from a company spokesperson. AEP gave RAGA at least $25,000 in 2020, and $82,000 since 2014.
The American Property Casualty Insurers Association is the insurance industry trade association. It gave $50,000 to RAGA through its PAC in 2020. It was the first year that it had funded RAGA according to tax filings. “Although the RAGA’s Executive Director resigned and RAGA did an internal review, we sent a letter on January 11, 2021 calling for the Chair of RAGA and the Rule of Law Defense Fund to conduct an independent review of their governance and decision-making processes and the appropriate degree of separation between RAGA and RLDF. In light of the recent horrific violence on the nation’s capital, APCIA is undertaking a strategic review of all political giving to elected officials and organizations. We will not proceed with political giving until the strategic review is complete,” David A. Sampson, APCIA president and CEO said by email.
Affirm is an online financing company. A company spokesperson told Documented: “We have not renewed our RAGA membership for 2021. We are continuing to monitor developments related to the riots and awaiting the results of the internal investigation that Gen. Marshal called for before making decisions on future membership. We will not support any organizations found to have contributed to the appalling acts that took place in the U.S. Capitol.” Affirm had given RAGA $50,000 in 2020, after giving it $20,300 in 2019 (its first year of funding).
A spokesperson from Western Union told Documented: “On January 8, Western Union informed RAGA that it will not renew its membership until RAGA’s investigation is complete and unless and until Western Union is satisfied with the results of the inquiry and measures to address any concerns raised.” Western Union gave RAGA at least $15,000 in 2020, and more than $100,000 since 2014.
Amgen told us in response to a question about their 2021 RAGA membership: “such disbursements have been temporarily suspended pending a review of future contributions.” The company gave RAGA at least $25,000 in 2020, and $95,000 since 2014.
We will continue to reach out to RAGA’s donors, and report on this more if we learn of others dropping their membership.
January 20 2020
A spokesperson from DTE Energy told Documented that they are pausing all PAC and corporate political spending, including to RAGA. DTE gave RAGA $15,000 in 2020, and more than $130,000 since 2014.
The Boeing Company Political Action Committee has given RAGA $25,000 consistently every year since 2014. Thats a total of $175,000 over that period. A spokesperson told Documented: “Boeing strongly condemns the violence, lawlessness and destruction that took place in the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. Given the current environment, we are not making political contributions at this time. We will continue to carefully evaluate future contributions to ensure that we support those who not only support our company, but also uphold our country’s most fundamental principles.”
Securus Technologies, a prison communications firm, funded RAGA for the first time in 2020 with a $50,000 contribution. It is now suspending its membership. Statement to Documented: “Subsequent to the attack on the Capitol, we have suspended political contributions and are re-evaluating all of our memberships and contributions for 2021.”
OrthoPAC (The American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons PAC) gave RAGA $15,000 in 2020, the first year they had funded the group. An OrthoPAC spokesperson told Documented it has “suspended all political contributions to allow it time to evaluate its strategy going forward.”
Intuit, the giant tech firm behind TurboTax and QuickBook, has funded RAGA every year since RAGA and given more than $320,000 in that time. In 2020 it gave $50,000. A spokesperson told Documented: “Intuit is pausing donations from our PAC and all political campaign engagements globally as part of a broader review of our public affairs engagement strategies to make sure we are having the right impact on behalf of our customers, our employees and our company.”
The Irish pharmaceutical company Alkermes had told Documented on January 12th that the company was evaluating its approach to political spending. On January 20th a spokesperson told Documented: “Alkermes is suspending all PAC giving to Members of Congress who voted to object to the certification of the election results” They further clarified: “Alkermes will not be renewing its membership with RAGA this year.” Alkermes has given $130,000 to RAGA since 2014, and gave $50,000 in 2020.
Photo of U.S. Capitol on January 6 2021 by Blink O'fanaye. Used under creative commons license.