Facebook, Google and Microsoft freeze PAC contributions in the wake of Capitol siege

Facebook is reportedly reassessing its political spending practices after the Jan. 6 Capitol attack.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Silicon Valley is suspending contributions to its political action committees in the wake of last week’s riot on Capitol Hill, where supporters of President Donald Trump tried to prevent Congressional certification of the 2020 election results.

“Following last week’s awful violence in DC, we are pausing all of our PAC contributions for at least the current quarter, while we review our policies,” Facebook spokesperson Daniel Roberts told CNET. Roberts noted that suspension doesn’t apply to political spending at large.

Google also froze political contributions following the attack. A spokesperson for the tech giant said it had paused all contributions by its employee-funded NetPAC, its political action committee, and is reviewing its policies. 

Facebook and Google weren’t alone in freezing political contributions. Other Big Tech companies also paused contributions in the wake of the chaotic insurrection attempt, which left five people dead. Historically, tech PACs have donated to both Democrats and Republicans. 

Political action committees pools campaign contributions and use the funds to support or oppose candidates or issues. PACs often represent businesses or groups with particular interests. 

Software giant Microsoft said it would also pause political donations as it reviewed the implications of the melee. “The PAC regularly pauses its donations in the first quarter of a new Congress, but it will take additional steps this year to consider these recent events and consult with employees,” a company spokesperson said.

AT&T said its PAC wouldn’t contribute to the Republican legislators who objected to the certification of the 2020 election results. “Employees on our Federal PAC Board convened a call today and decided to suspend contributions to members of Congress who voted to object to the certification of Electoral College votes last week,” a spokesperson said in a statement.

Telecommunications giant Comcast reportedly said Monday it too would suspend political contributions to “to those elected officials who voted against certification of the electoral college votes.”

AT&T and Comcast together made political contributions of $5.2 million over the past two years, according to Open Secrets, a database maintained by the Center for Responsive Politics.

Wireless carrier T-Mobile said it would review its PAC giving but didn’t commit to a course of action.

Amazon’s PAC is reportedly halting contributions to legislators who voted against the certification.

Intel’s political action committee will continue making bipartisan contributions, but “we will not contribute to members of Congress who voted against certification of the Electoral College results as we feel that action was counter to our company’s values,” the chipmaker said in a statement.

Short-term home rental site Airbnb is also withholding financial support from Republicans who tried to prevent the certification. “Airbnb strongly condemns last week’s attack on the US Capitol and the efforts to undermine our democratic process,” the company said in a statement. Airbnb added that it “will continue to uphold our community policies by banning violent hate group members when we learn of such memberships.”

In a statement, satellite TV service Dish called the elections “free and fair” and expressed disappointment that some Republican members of Congress wouldn’t drop their objections to the vote. It stopped short, however, of pausing contributions, saying instead the company’s PAC “will certainly take into account the past statements and conduct of each candidate seeking support.”

Social media companies have cracked down on President Donald Trump after a mob of his supporters broke into the Capitol on Jan. 6. Among the actions taken: Facebook blocked Trump indefinitely, and Twitter banned his account permanently. Last year, Twitter closed its PAC because of its belief that “political influence should be earned, not bought.” The company’s PAC hasn’t made any donations to candidates since 2018 and it donated its remaining funds to support nonpartisan voter registration activities.

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