A handful of the most powerful U.S. defense contractors have joined a growing corporate backlash against the deadly Jan. 6 pro-Trump U.S. Capitol siege, pausing all political contributions until further notice.
On Monday, aerospace and defense technology company Northrop Grumman was the first of the defense giants to announce a halt on donations from its political action committee, or PAC. Raytheon Technologies, Leidos and the British BAE Systems followed suit Tuesday.
Huntington Ingalls Industries, the nation's largest shipbuilding company, has also announced that contributions from its employee PAC were put on hold recently for a budget review, and "any governance changes to possibly implement in the new cycle."
When asked whether the pause is related to the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol, Beci Benton, director of corporate affairs for Huntington Ingalls, said via email Wednesday, "I will not go into details."
In a statement Wednesday, Northrop, which has contracts to develop the Air Force's B-21 Raider long-range bomber and the new intercontinental ballistic missile, called the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent, said the company is "pausing political action committee giving and evaluating the way forward."
Roger Krone, chairman and CEO of the Leidos information technology and research firm, said in a statement Tuesday that company leaders were, like all Americans, "shocked and appalled by the behavior that took place on Capitol Hill last week" when a mob overwhelmed security and swarmed into the Capitol.
"In light of these events, Leidos' Political Action Committee has decided to temporarily pause all political donations," Krone said. "It's time to unite as one nation, promoting decency, understanding and a commitment to the common good."
While these defense firms paused political giving across the board, some large non-defense companies, such as Walmart, specifically targeted the eight senators and 139 House members who voted against certifying President-elect Joe Biden as the winner of the November elections.
"In light of last week's attack on the U.S. Capitol, Walmart's political action committee is indefinitely suspending contributions to those members of Congress who voted against the lawful certification of state electoral college votes," the company said in a statement Tuesday.
Other firms that halted contributions to those who voted against certifying Biden include Amazon, Dow Inc., General Electric, Marriott International Inc. and Comcast.
Firms that paused all political contributions include Facebook, Microsoft, Coca-Cola, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs.
In the last election cycle, all corporate PACs gave a total of $91 million to members of the House and $27 million to senators, according to OpenSecrets.org from the Center for Responsive Politics.
Contributions from Northrop Grumman's employee-funded PAC were about $4.8 million last year, according to OpenSecrets.org. Leidos contributed about $2.3 million; Raytheon, $6.5 million; and BAE Systems, $1.7 million.
The pause in political contributions by defense firms that have profited from higher defense spending and foreign military sales may be "potentially significant," depending on how long it lasts, said Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21, a campaign finance reform advocacy group.
"If this is just a pause and then they go back to business as usual when things quiet down, then it's more of a public relations action," Wertheimer said.
However, he said the firms are "sending a signal of strong objection to what's going on" in the aftermath of the riots.
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.