Toyota caved to a viral hashtag and a Lincoln Project video

(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)

The Capitol Hill riot on January 6 did not deter some Republican lawmakers from voting against certifying the 2020 presidential election in Congress. Some who had planned to vote against certification changed their mind after the riot but 147 held firm and voted to sustain one or both objections that were up for votes. In all, eight senators and 139 representatives, all Republicans, voted no. In the aftermath, large corporations and businesses were pressured to stop donating money to these lawmakers by way of PACs. Many agreed to stop, at least temporarily.

On Thursday, Toyota’s corporate PAC joined other PACS in declaring that no more financial contributions would be going to politicians who voted against election certification. The riot happened six months ago so Toyota is a little late to the party. Toyota’s North American headquarters is in Plano, Texas, outside of Dallas. As we know, Texas is the largest red state so news of pressure against Toyota being the top donor to Republicans who voted no made headlines. Up until Thursday, though, Toyota resisted the pressure. On June 27, Axios ran a story about Toyota’s political contributions. According to that story, “data compiled by the left-leaning watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington show Toyota gave $55,000 to 37 GOP objectors this year.” Once the story was published, a hashtag opposing the PACs donations went viral. #BoycottToyota was used on social media by Democrats, NeverTrumpers, and of course, some Hollywood celebrities got in on the action.

Toyota issued a statement that straddled the fence between announcing a halt to contributions to these politicians and saying that some politicians “undermine the legitimacy of our elections”.

“We do not believe it is appropriate to judge members of Congress solely based on their votes on the electoral certification,” a spokesperson for Toyota told Axios.

The spokesperson is also quoted as saying that the company reviewed politicians and “decided against giving to some members who, through their statements and actions, undermine the legitimacy of our elections and institutions.”

Toyota did not elaborate on how it makes that distinction.

The former Republicans who comprise The Lincoln Project got in on the action and released a YouTube video on Thursday that tries to shame Toyota into stopping its financial contribution to these Republicans. Between the video and the hashtag campaign, the pressure worked. Toyota caved. The company released a statement.

“Toyota is committed to supporting and promoting actions that further our democracy. Our company has long-standing relationships with Members of Congress across the political spectrum, especially those representing our U.S. operations.

“Our bipartisan PAC equally supports Democrats and Republicans running for Congress. In fact, in 2021, the vast majority of the contributions went to Democrats and Republicans who supported the certification of the 2020 election.

“We understand that the PAC decision to support select Members of Congress who contested the results troubled some stakeholders. We are actively listening to our stakeholders and, at this time, we have decided to stop contributing to those Members of Congress who contested the certification of certain states in the 2020 election.”

The report issued by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington made three specific points about Toyota’s campaign contributions.

That equates to a quarter of the bloc that voted to nullify President Biden’s win after the Capitol siege.

Toyota gave more than twice as much — and to nearly five times as many members of Congress — as the No. 2 company on the list, Cubic Corp., a San Diego-based defense contractor.

The Japanese automaker’s donations this year included a February contribution to Rep. Andy Biggs, an Arizona Republican who has been one of Congress’ most vocal election conspiracy theorists. According to an organizer of the “Stop the Steal” rally prior to the Capitol attack, Biggs also helped put on that event, a charge Biggs has denied.

The total – $55,000 to 37 GOP politicians – doesn’t sound so influential, in the grand scheme of things. But, it was enough to make Toyota the top contributor to this group of Republican lawmakers. Now, because Toyota is so late to the party, it makes the corporation look insincere. They are succumbing to pressure from the left and their stockholders who voiced support for stopping the political contributions. That is what corporations do but in this case, it contradicts their past decision and makes Toyota look weak.

Some PACs that declared in January that they would halt political contributions to all candidates or to the Republicans who voted no have already quietly resumed making contributions again. Does anyone really think that large corporate PACs are going to sit on the sidelines indefinitely to make a statement? The decisions of these PACs are financial decisions, not moral ones. They are meant to placate shareholders. Those shareholders will expect their voices to be heard when the mid-term elections come next year. The companies that halted all contributions to all politicians are the first to resume giving. Color me skeptical but how long do you think it will be before even those who voted against certification begin receiving PAC money from big corporations in the mid-term election cycle?

There are Texas congressional members on the list. The corporate headquarters are in Plano. We should keep an eye on donations to those Republicans moving forward to gauge the length of this commitment. Democrats and NeverTrumpers are determined to paint the Republican Party with a broad brush and keep the riot of January 6th as a campaign issue. The people participating in storming Capitol Hill that day are but a very small segment of Republican voters, and Trump voters, specifically.

Jazz Shaw Aug 07, 2022 2:31 PM ET