Nov 2, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Corporate America plays it safe in midterms

Data: OpenSecrets; Chart: Simran Parwani/Axios Visuals
Data: OpenSecrets; Chart: Simran Parwani/Axios Visuals

Despite the populist turns in both parties, incumbents and sitting federal officeholders are raking in PAC money at a far faster clip than their challengers, records show.

Why it matters: Main Street still values stability above uncertainty. There's been lots of speculation about a corporate political realignment. But the current giving patterns don't show a rush to angle or line up with change.

By the numbers: Seven incumbents in the nation's 10 most competitive Senate contests — five Democrats and two Republicans — are far out-raising their challengers among corporate PACs and trade associations, according to Federal Election Committee data provided by OpenSecrets.

  • Two open-seat races feature candidates who are sitting House members: Reps. Ted Budd (R-N.C.) and Tim Ryan (D-Ohio). Both are taking in far more corporate money than their opponents.

What they're saying: "Given the anti-business rhetoric on the far right and left, many companies aren't sure who their allies are anymore," said Doug Pinkham, the president of the Public Affairs Council, which advises companies on engagement in Washington.

  • "I don't think corporate America's support for social issues will disappear even if Republicans take control of the House and the Senate. And that means we could be right in the middle of a transition period. ... During transition periods, we shouldn't expect everyone to support candidates for the same reasons."

The intrigue: One race that appears to defy the pattern is Pennsylvania's Senate contest, in which corporate donations to both candidates have been relatively meager.

  • The Republican in the race, Mehmet Oz, pledged he would "not take one dime from corporate PAC money," and FEC records show his campaign has refunded most of the handful it's received.
  • Oz has taken donations from some large trade groups, but they're a small fraction of his total fundraising.
  • Democrat John Fetterman has received donations from just two business groups: the American Association for Justice, a trial lawyer trade association, and Pittsburgh chemical company Calgon Carbon's PAC.
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