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Microsoft, Google, Facebook, others freeze political contributions in wake of Capitol siege

After the deadly Jan. 6 attack, and a vote by some politicians not to certify the 2020 election results, tech giants are rethinking their political contributions.

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Facebook is one of a number of companies reassessing their political spending practices after the attack.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Silicon Valley and the tech world at large are changing their political action committee spending in the wake of the deadly Jan. 6 riot on Capitol Hill, when supporters of Donald Trump tried to prevent congressional certification of the 2020 election results.

Companies including Facebook, Google and Microsoft typically donate to PACs to support or oppose a candidate or issue. But after the Capitol attack, and subsequent votes by some members of Congress against certifying the 2020 presidential election results, many companies said they'd rethink who they support and how.

Facebook for example said in January that it would freeze PAC donations but still maintain its other political spending. Google as well said it would pause contributions by its employee-funded NetPAC, its political action committee, and is reviewing its policies. 

Software giant Microsoft said in January that it would also pause political donations as it reviewed the implications of the melee. On Feb. 5, the company said it would suspend contributions during the 2022 election cycle for all members of Congress who voted against certifying the election results. It's also following the same policy for state officials and organizations who took a similar stance.

In addition, Microsoft said its PAC, which is funded by donations from more than 3,000 employees, would create a new initiative to support organizations that "promote public transparency, campaign finance reform, and voting rights."

Facebook, Google and Microsoft weren't alone in freezing political contributions. Other Big Tech companies' PACs, including those from Airbnb, Amazon and Intel, also paused contributions in the wake of the chaotic insurrection attempt, which left five people dead, including a Capitol Police officer. Historically, tech PACs have donated to both Democrats and Republicans.

Not all tech PACs or companies donate to members of Congress in the first place, either. Last year, Twitter closed its PAC because of its belief that "political influence should be earned, not bought." The company's PAC hasn't made any donations to candidates since 2018, and it donated its remaining funds to support nonpartisan voter registration activities.

Ride-hailing company Lyft said in January that in the past it hasn't supported any of the members of Congress who voted against certification and that it's "committed to not supporting them in the future." Lyft added that it had joined nearly 200 other business leaders earlier this month to urge Congress to certify the electoral results for Biden.

Meanwhile, satellite TV service Dish in January called the elections "free and fair" and expressed disappointment that some Republican members of Congress wouldn't drop their objections to the vote. It stopped short, however, of pausing contributions, saying instead that the company's PAC "will certainly take into account the past statements and conduct of each candidate seeking support."

Telecom pauses too

Big tech companies weren't the only ones to pull their money, even if temporarily, from some members of Congress and organizations that objected to certifying the 2020 election.

Verizon in January said it would be "suspending contributions to any member of Congress who voted in favor of objecting to the election results." A total of 147 Republicans in the House and Senate objected to the results. 

AT&T said its PAC wouldn't contribute to the Republican legislators who objected to certifying the election results. "Employees on our Federal PAC Board convened a call today and decided to suspend contributions to members of Congress who voted to object to the certification of Electoral College votes last week," a spokesperson said in a statement.

Telecommunications giant Comcast in January said it too would suspend political contributions "to those elected officials who voted against certification of the Electoral College votes."

AT&T and Comcast together made political contributions of $5.2 million over the past two years, according to Open Secrets, a database maintained by the Center for Responsive Politics.

Wireless carrier T-Mobile said at the time that it would review its PAC giving, but it didn't commit to a course of action.

Not just donations

Tech companies haven't just changed their political spending, they've also moved to excise groups and people who participated in and contributed to the attack from their platforms.

Most notably, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook cracked down on Trump after the mob of his supporters broke into the Capitol. Among the actions taken: Facebook blocked Trump indefinitely, Twitter banned his account permanently, and YouTube suspended his account for an undefined amount of time