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Donor Backlash Fuels GOP Alarm         01/16 10:08

   Republicans are worried that a corporate backlash stirred by the deadly 
Capitol insurrection could crimp a vital stream of campaign cash, complicating 
the party's prospects of retaking the Senate in the next election.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- Republicans are worried that a corporate backlash stirred 
by the deadly Capitol insurrection could crimp a vital stream of campaign cash, 
complicating the party's prospects of retaking the Senate in the next election.

   The GOP already faces a difficult Senate map in 2022, when 14 
Democratic-held seats and 20 Republican ones will be on the ballot. That 
includes at least two open seats that Republicans will be defending because of 
the retirements of GOP Sens. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Richard Burr of 
North Carolina.

   But some in the party say the problem may be bigger than the map. Eight 
Republican senators voted to reject Electoral College votes for President-elect 
Joe Biden, even after the ransacking of the Capitol by a mob of Donald Trump 
supporters who were exhorted by the president to stop Congress from certifying 
Biden's victory. Five people died in the mayhem, including a Capitol Police 
officer.

   Recriminations were swift, with more than a dozen corporate giants --- 
including AT&T, Nike, Comcast, Dow, Marriott, Walmart and Verizon --- pledging 
to withhold donations to Republican lawmakers who voted to reject the outcome 
of the election in Arizona or Pennsylvania. One of those lawmakers, Florida 
Sen. Rick Scott, is the new chair of the National Republican Senatorial 
Committee, a post that makes him the public face of the Senate Republican 
fundraising efforts.

   "That's the crux of the issue: Is this a storm that will blow over, or is 
... challenging (Biden's) Electoral College certification a scarlet 'A'?" said 
Republican donor Dan Eberhart, who has contributed at least $115,000 to Senate 
Republican efforts in recent years.

   The lost contributions aren't disastrous on their own. Political action 
committees controlled by corporations and industry groups are limited to giving 
$5,000 to a candidate per year, a sliver of the typical fundraising haul for 
most Senate candidates.

   But two senior Republican strategists involved in Senate races say the 
cumulative effect of the companies' decisions could have a bigger impact.

   Both of the strategists, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss 
internal party deliberations, say companies that suspended political giving are 
also sending a powerful signal to their executives, board members and employees 
about whom they should donate to. And with Scott at the helm of the NRSC, that 
could affect the committee's cash flow, they said.

   Adding to the worries, other pillars of GOP fundraising --- including the 
U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Rifle Association and groups tied to the 
Koch brothers --- can no longer be counted on for robust financial support.

   The NRA announced Friday that it had filed for bankruptcy after years of 
profligate spending and insider dealing by top leaders. The Chamber of 
Commerce, which angered some Republicans when it recently started donating to 
Democrats, announced this week that it will withhold contributions from some 
Republicans over their actions. And the Koch network, too, announced it will 
scrutinize whom it gives to following the insurrection, as first reported by 
The Wall Street Journal.

   "There are some members who by their actions will have forfeited the support 
of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce," Neil Bradley, the chamber's chief policy 
officer, said this week. "Our PAC will continue to support those candidates who 
demonstrate that type of commitment to governing and democratic norms and our 
priorities."

   More concerning still, one of the most influential Republican megadonors, 
Sheldon Adelson, died in recent days. That puts more pressure on the NRSC and 
the leading Senate Republican outside group, Senate Leadership Fund, to cover 
the difference.

   Even before the last week's violence, Republican Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and 
Josh Hawley of Missouri drew widespread ire for leading efforts to challenge 
Biden's win. Since the assault on the Capitol, both have come under even 
harsher criticism from editorial boards and influential donors, including calls 
to resign. Both are seen as likely 2024 White House contenders.

   Then there's Scott, a wealthy businessman and former Florida governor. He 
also voted to object to Biden's win.

   "Daily reminder, Senate Republicans have chosen one of the handful of 
Senators who supported the big lie AFTER death and destruction in the Capitol 
to be their political leader," tweeted former Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, a 
Democrat who was ousted by Hawley. "Rick Scott is in charge of the organization 
that tries to elect R's."

   Scott's new position as NRSC chair is widely viewed as a prelude to a 
potential 2024 run and one that will bring him into close contact with a 
national network of the Republican Party's biggest donors.

   On Wednesday, Scott released a video message after taking over the NRSC that 
was heavy on his biography and light on his plan to help Republicans win. That 
irked some Republicans, who believe Scott took over the NRSC to help build a 
national donor network for an expected presidential bid, according to three 
Republican strategists.

   "I've won four statewide elections. All the races were close. In the 
process, I've raised a lot of money and spent a fortune of my own," Scott said 
in the video. "I can say this with confidence: I will never ask a potential 
donor to contribute more than I have already given."

   In a statement, Chris Hartline, an NRSC spokesperson and aide to the 
senator, said Scott was the party's "best fundraiser" and the committee had "no 
interest in engaging with nonsense from D.C. consultants who have no idea what 
they're talking about."

   "Senator Scott has been clear that if folks want higher taxes, more 
regulation, bigger government and nationalized health care, they should feel 
free to give to Democrats," Hartline said.

   Some say it's too early to tell if the corporate backlash will truly hurt 
Republicans. They note that with elections just held this is a period when 
there is typically little fundraising activity. And some are confident that, as 
Washington comes under unified Democratic control, business groups will find 
common cause with Republicans once again.

   "A lot of this talk is premature and shortsighted," said Scott Reed, a 
longtime Republican strategist. "A re-regulation crowd is taking over Congress 
and the White House. This is a decision many will regret by midsummer."

   The eight GOP senators who voted to uphold objections to the Electoral 
College count were Cruz, Hawley, Scott, Cindy Hyde Smith of Mississippi, John 
Kennedy of Louisiana, Roger Marshall of Kansas, Tommy Tuberville of Alabama and 
Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming.

 
 
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