It was one of the few entertainment companies and ranked 20th on a watchdog list of companies backing politicians who questioned the outcome of the 2020 presidential election
That review appears to have concluded that funding election deniers was acceptable after all. OpenSecrets found that Comcast ranked 20th on a list that includes Koch Industries, Boeing, Lockheed Martin and dozens of other companies.
The cable giant gave $356,500 to candidates who openly disputed former President Donald Trump’s reelection defeat, making it an outlier among its media-industry peers. Paramount was the only other large entertainment company on the list, with a modest $11,000 in contributions. The National Association of Broadcasters gave $207,000.
According to Federal Election Commission data, corporate PACs and industry trade groups have given more than $66 million to election objectors who voted against certifying the 2020 election on Jan. 6, 2021, as pro-Trump protesters attacked the nation’s Capitol.
Some of the top recipients of Comcast donations include newly reelected House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-NY), Rep.Carlos Jimenez (R-FL), Rep. Dan Meuser (R-PA), Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-PA), Rep. Guy Reschenthaler (R-PA), Rep. John Joyce (R-PA), Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA), Lloyd Smucker (R-PA), Mike Garcia (R-PA), Rep. John Kennedy (R-LA), Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) and Rep. Yvette Herrell (R-NM).
Representatives from Comcast didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Sarah Bryner, director of research and strategy at OpenSecrets, told TheWrap that companies like Comcast typically donate to candidates who represent their business interests, but also aim to cozy up to the party in control.
“Very few PACs deviate from supporting the party that they think will be in power the next cycle,” Bryner said. “The writing was on the wall that it was going to be the Republicans, so they leaned that way. But you need both parties in your corner, so they gave also to Democrats.”
Election denialism remains a sensitive issue, especially since some of the same candidates who sought to overturn the election results also underplayed the riot that took place alongside the Jan. 6 certification process.
Supporting candidates that some might find offensive is something that corporations and their PACs consider strategically, Bryner told TheWrap.
“Companies have to weigh the costs and benefits of any donations. Maybe they could take a mild public relations hit, but in the end, they correctly assumed that it would not be as bad as not having access to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy,” Bryner said.
She said one benefit of using PACs for donations is that it distances the corporations from the fray.
“If a PAC does something that you don’t like, who do you go after?” Bryner said.
Retail companies that sell shoes or soft drinks or cars are usually more concerned about linking their brand to a candidate, knowing that consumers have choices, Bryner said.
“You don’t typically have much of a choice in who you get your Wi-Fi from, so a company like Comcast might be less worried about image,” she said.
Through its extensive media operations, however, Comcast risks offending partners of NBCUniversal, customers or viewers of its programming.
OpenSecrets reported that 1,550 business PACs, which include corporate PACs and industry trade groups, gave more than $59 million directly to the campaigns of 142 of the members of Congress who voted against the certification of 2020 election results. The same groups gave another $9 million to the same candidates through leadership PACs.
According to OpenSecrets, more than 95% of the 124 election objectors who ran for reelection in the House in 2022 prevailed, with just five incumbents losing in their primary or general elections. Three of those election objectors died while in office and 12 retired.
Other big companies that have continued funneling PAC contributions to election objectors include AT&T, Boeing, Cigna, General Motors, Home Depot, Lockheed Martin, Marathon Petroleum, Pfizer, Raytheon, UPS, UnitedHealth, Verizon and Walmart.
Trade associations that contributed most to election objectors included the National Association of Realtors, National Beer Wholesalers Association, National Auto Dealers Association and American Bankers Association.
Business PACs sent their largest donations, totaling $2.1 million, to McCarthy, who voted against certifying the 2020 election.
McCarthy’s campaign secured donations from American Airlines, Chevron, and defense company Northrop Grumman, as well as Comcast.
Top 2022 cycle donors to McCarthy’s leadership PAC included FedEx, ExxonMobil and Home Depot.