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Sen. Ted Cruz behind Sen. Josh Hawley at a hearing. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Many of America's top businesspeople have had enough of political pandering to the mob, and plan to deny future contributions to those who egged it on.

Why it matters: Senators like Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz may have been auditioning for 2024 presidential runs, but have alienated some of those who could have helped fund those campaigns.

Behind the scenes: On Monday night, 36 hours before the insurrection, Yale School of Management professor Jeffrey Sonnenfeld invited a group of high-profile CEOs and investors to a virtual meeting at 7am the following morning, to discuss expected congressional objections to the presidential certification process.

  • This was the second such meeting since the election, the first of which was on Nov. 6 after President Trump made clear that he favored conspiracy over concession. The group also met after George Floyd's murder, and has regularly held in-person gatherings over the years, usually with Chatham House rules.
  • One attendee told Axios yesterday morning: "The amount of anger at these 11 senators was more intense than any I can recall directed with so much universality. There is real anger at these people, particularly Hawley and Cruz, that they don't really understand. ... We all know we need public/private partnership to get through this pandemic, and these 11 are doing something they know is wrong, which hurts those efforts, for purely personal reasons."

Sonnenfeld says that polling shows CEOs are currently among America's most trusted institutional voices, and that several urged him to convene the Tuesday meeting.

  • Sources say that one topic of conversation, and agreement, was to no longer financially support congressional election deniers, either directly or indirectly (via PACs, etc). And possibly to support primary challengers.
  • There is some skepticism that participants will stick to this informal and private pledge, but Sonnenfeld expects that outside groups like the Lincoln Project and academics will call public attention to those who stray.
  • He adds that Hawley is in a particularly precarious position, as he has no seniority that would tempt some CEOs to trade principle for access.

The bottom line: Money in politics is a very powerful force. So is withholding it.

Go deeper

Erica Pandey, author of @Work
Jan 13, 2021 - Economy & Business

The age of wartime CEOs

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

In the last year, Americans have worked through a deadly pandemic, social isolation, racial injustice protests, a presidential election and, now, an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

Why it matters: Laboring through this string of crises is exacerbating employee burnout and pushing CEOs to turn into wartime leaders.

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The Biden administration has put on hold two big arms deals with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates which were approved in the final weeks of the Trump administration, a State Department official tells Axios.

Why it matters: The sales of F-35 jets and attack drones to the UAE and a large supply of munitions to Saudi Arabia will be paused pending a review. That signals a major policy shift from the Trump era, and may herald sharp tensions with both Gulf countries.

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Robert Downey Jr. on Wednesday announced the launch of two venture capital funds focused on startups in the sustainability sector, the latest evolution of a project he launched two years ago called Footprint Collective.

Between the lines: This is a bit of life imitating art, as Downey Jr. spent 11 films portraying a character who sought to save the planet (or, in some cases, the universe).