Will an impeachment trial turn the GOP's corporate-donor spigot back on?

Right now it looks like hard times for the GOP, at least for those in Congress who voted to throw out electors in a bid to reverse the presidential election. Corporate donors revolted, declaring either “pauses” or outright stoppages of donations to those Republicans and more broadly the Republican Party. It’s not just Donald Trump that has firms sitting on the sideline, and it’s already having an impact.

The Hill reported today that the cash shutoff has the GOP “in a bind” as they plan out their midterm strategies and figure out how to get past the “toxic” present. That leaves the Republicans stuck between their populist grassroots and the funds they need to compete:

Trump maintains undying loyalty from at least a third of Republicans and he would be the overwhelming favorite to win the GOP presidential primary if it were held today.

He just won the second-most popular votes in a presidential election in U.S. history, with Republican gaining seats in the House. It’s another reason why Trump remains more popular in the lower chamber of Congress than in the Senate, where many Republicans blame him for costing the GOP majority when it lost two Georgia Senate runoff races earlier this month. …

Yet there is no question the national party will take the cutting of donations seriously, particularly if it continues. Numerous major corporations have said they won’t donate to lawmakers who objected to certifying the electoral results last week.

Disney, Amazon, Marriott, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Bank of America are among the groups that have said they will stop contributing to candidates who opposed the certification. That would cover a majority of the House GOP, including its two leaders.

It’s unclear whether that will injure the Trump-wing of the party. Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel was unanimously re-elected to lead the party despite the GOP losing the White House and Senate last cycle.

It’s tough to say just how badly these corporate stoppages will hurt the GOP, but clearly the impact is not insubstantial. Most corporations lean left, especially in their push for greater government authority in order to get the rent-seeking regulations that benefit them most. Even so, they play both sides of the street in every cycle, wisely calculating that it’s best to keep that footprint as bipartisan as possible in case they guess wrong about who’s in control.

That incentive looms large in this corporate protest, too. Yes, they can choose to yank funds from the GOP over the Capitol riots and the illegitimate attempt to exclude states from the election, but that’s an untenable position for the long term. They can’t afford to antagonize one of the two major parties, in large part because of the monster they themselves helped create in the federal government. The next time Republicans win control in Washington, it would be payback time for these corporations, and they would have zero leverage in that situation to mitigate it.

It might be untenable even in the short term. Politico also reports that these same corporations are not happy about the Democrats’ push for an impeachment trial, considering it an expensive distraction. That might turn the cash spigots back on to the GOP sooner than expected:

In interviews, top executives at leading companies indicated their desire to keep their firms out of the next leg of Washington’s political fight over impeachment and simply move on to the President Joe Biden era. Many executives also acknowledged they expect to start reengaging in campaign contributions to Republicans once the latest political crisis passes, perhaps by the spring.

“It’s not our job to decide if the president should be impeached and convicted. As CEOs and leaders, this is how you get in trouble,” the chief executive of one large Wall Street bank said on condition that they not be identified. “The thing that really bothers me is the erosion in civility in everything we are doing. We have so much serious stuff to do and we absolutely have to get on with it right now.”

“We need to get vaccines distributed,” the CEO added. “We need to turn the services economy back on. This is an enormous distraction.”

Those sentiments were echoed by others who cited the need for much faster vaccine distribution and passage of further stimulus efforts as paramount and suggested that indulging in a Senate trial after Biden is sworn in next week could undermine efforts to fight the virus and boost the economy. …

“Everyone wants to get back to normal business,” he said. “We are just a few days away. Let’s just get there. I don’t think anyone is that interested in a Senate trial after Biden takes office. They want vaccines and stimulus.”

In other words, it really was mostly about Trump. With him out of the way in five days, these CEOs don’t see the point of remaining focused on Trump for any length of time after Joe Biden’s inauguration. Other than retribution, as righteous as it might be, there isn’t any point. Trump’s double impeachment is a significant enough stain for these corporate leaders, and any further push will only inflame the hyperpartisanship that prompted their cutoff of funds to Republicans last week.

Few expected the corporate spigots to be turned off for long, given the realities of political economics on Wall Street. The Senate Democrats’ push for an impeachment trial might end up accelerating the return to “normal business” in that sense, at least. And with CEOs sending this kind of signal, don’t expect Senate Republicans to feel pushed into voting for a conviction in the trial to come. They will instead echo the demand for a return to business as usual, in all its forms.