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Local GOP Congressmen Could Lose Donors After Challenging The Presidential Election. How Much Could

California Rep. Doug LaMalfa and Oregon Rep. Cliff Bentz were among 147 Republicans who voted not to certify one or more states' electoral votes after the 2020 election. The decision prompted dozens of corporations to end or pause campaign contributions.
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California Rep. Doug LaMalfa and Oregon Rep. Cliff Bentz were among 147 Republicans who voted not to certify one or more states' electoral votes after the 2020 election. The decision prompted dozens of corporations to end or pause campaign contributions.

JPR reviewed campaign finance records of two local Republicans, one in Southern Oregon and another in Northern California, to try to understand the impact of that vote and whether it will have a lasting effect.

On Jan. 6, a far-right mob stormed the U.S. Capitol, upset about the results of the 2020 election and the loss for former President Trump. During the attack five people died, lawmakers had to flee to safety, and the seat of American democracy was vandalized.

But that night, as Congress regrouped to certify the results of the 2020 election, 147 Republican members of the House and Senate voted not to certify certain states’ electoral votes, despite dozens of court decisions rejecting challenges to voting in those states.

Two Republicans who voted against certification were Oregon Congressional District 2 Representative Cliff Bentz, who voted not to certify the results in Pennsylvania, and California 1st District Representative Doug LaMalfa, who voted against the results in Arizona and Pennsylvania.

Within days, these votes prompted a new response from corporations across America and the political action committees, or PACs, they use to lobby Congress.

“We are implementing a freeze of indefinite duration on any further I-PAC campaign contributions to members of Congress who voted not to certify a state’s electoral college results,” says Ron Gales, a spokesperson for Southern California Edison.

The Edison International PAC has donated up to $2,500 to Rep. LaMalfa during each of his recent campaign cycles, according to campaign finance data from the Federal Elections Commission (FEC).

Verizon donated to both Bentz and LaMalfa during the 2019-2020 election cycle.

"We are suspending contributions to any member of Congress who voted in favor of objecting to the election results," wrote Rich Young, a spokesman for Verizon.

JPR compiled a list of 19 corporations including Blue Shield of California, Intel, UPS, and Union Pacific Railroad whose political action committees donated to either Representative, or both, ahead of the last election. Those corporations pledged to suspend, pause or reevaluate their political donations after the riot and vote on Jan. 6.

So, how much will their votes cost them?

According to FEC campaign filings for 2019-2020 cycle, Bentz’s vote not to certify the election results in Pennsylvania could cost him $41,500 in lost corporate donations. LaMalfa may lose $50,000.

Neither Congressman’s office responded to multiple interview requests.

Maybe the bigger questions are how significant is this financial loss and will the corporations live up to their statements?

“It’s an easy pledge to make and I think it remains to be seen whether it has legs,” says Sheila Krumholz, executive director of Open Secrets, a Washington D.C. nonprofit that monitors campaign finance.

Krumholz says elected officials are not nearly as actively fundraising now, as they will be closer to another election.

“It would be entirely different if we were a year out, heading into the 2022 primary,” she says. “These candidates would be much more likely to feel the pinch of a cessation of support.”

The losses for Bentz and LaMalfa could be larger, since the totals compiled by JPR are based only on corporations that made public statements. Still, $40-50,000 in losses is dwarfed by the $1.4 million that Bentz raised and $1.2 million LaMalfa raised in the last election cycle, according to the FEC.

Krumolz with Open Secrets says, our political memory is short and a lot can change in two years. She says public pressure will determine whether these pledges are kept.

Copyright 2021 Jefferson Public Radio

Erik Neumann is a radio producer and writer. A native of the Pacific Northwest, his work has appeared on public radio stations and in magazines along the West Coast. He received his Bachelor's Degree in geography from the University of Washington and a Master's in Journalism from UC Berkeley. Besides working at KUER, he enjoys being outside in just about every way possible.