Big tech companies put political donations on hold following Capitol riots

Capitol building with smoke surrounding it and rioters on it
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Tech giants Microsoft, Google, and Facebook have frozen political donations as America struggles with its constitutional crisis.

These and other companies, which normally donate to organizations via their political action committees (PACs), have suspended those activities in the wake of last week's riots at the US Capitol.

Speaking to Axios, Facebook said it’s pausing all PAC contributions for at least the first quarter of 2021 after last week’s attacks, which were spurred by president Trump's disinformation about election fraud. The company will also review its spending policies, a spokesperson added.

Microsoft has also suspended political donations while it reviews the implications of the Capitol riots. The company drew criticism from its employees last week, who noted that the company had declared support for a peaceful transition of power while also donating to politicians who challenged the election results.

This is not the first time Microsoft has suspended political donations through its PAC. It usually pauses political contributions during the first quarter of a new Congress, it told reporters, adding it will "take additional steps" this year, consulting with employees. In July 2019, a leaked letter revealed that Microsoft suspended PAC activities for a few months while it took time out to consider employee feedback about its donations.

Google also told reporters it would pause donations for the time being while assessing its policies. “We have frozen all NetPAC political contributions while we review and reassess its policies following last week’s deeply troubling events,” a Google spokesperson told CNBC.

While these companies imposed bans, others limited their actions to specific political factions. Amazon told CNBC it would freeze donations to lawmakers who voted against certifying the election results in Congress last week. Airbnb said the same, as did AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast.

The donation freeze in the tech and communications industry mirrors decisions among other large corporations. Axios noted that investment giant BlackRock, medical device manufacturer Boston Scientific, BP, Citi, Goldman Sachs, and JP Morgan Chase would freeze all PAC donations for the time being. Marriott International, Blue Cross Blue Shield, and Dow said they would freeze contributions to those who voted against certification.

In the wake of the Capitol riots that killed five people, Congresspeople are moving to impeach President Trump for incitement of insurrection in his final days in office. The FBI released an advisory this week warning of violent nationwide protests in the coming days as the country prepares for President-elect Biden's inauguration.

Danny Bradbury

Danny Bradbury has been a print journalist specialising in technology since 1989 and a freelance writer since 1994. He has written for national publications on both sides of the Atlantic and has won awards for his investigative cybersecurity journalism work and his arts and culture writing. 

Danny writes about many different technology issues for audiences ranging from consumers through to software developers and CIOs. He also ghostwrites articles for many C-suite business executives in the technology sector and has worked as a presenter for multiple webinars and podcasts.