Corporate PACs bankroll Liz Cheney as Trump backs primary • OpenSecrets

Liz Cheney

Liz Cheney
(Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

As House Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) prepares for an intense primary election, business PACs are giving her an early fundraising boost. 

Through the first two months of the year, Cheney is the No. 2 recipient of donations from PACs associated with corporations and trade associations, trailing only Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) for the top spot among all members of Congress. That’s according to Federal Election Commission filings released this month. 

There isn’t much business PAC money to come by following the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, particularly for Republicans. Dozens of companies cut off PAC donations to lawmakers who objected to the Electoral College results and even more paused PAC giving entirely. Cheney’s campaign and leadership PAC received $74,600 from business PACs through February, a figure that pales in comparison to previous years but was second only to Schumer’s $111,000 this year. Not all business PACs filed reports with the FEC as of late March.

The early influx of PAC money pits business interests against former President Donald Trump, who is going all-out to defeat Cheney in next year’s primaries. Cheney was one of 10 House Republicans voting to impeach Trump over his role in inciting the Capitol riot, and she has said the former president shouldn’t play a role in the future of the GOP. 

Trump singled out Cheney during his speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference last month, labeling her a “warmonger” and calling for her defeat. Trump’s leadership PAC, Save America, advertised that Cheney’s poll numbers dropped after she voted to impeach Trump. This month, Donald Trump Jr. unsuccessfully pushed Wyoming lawmakers to change election rules to make it easier to defeat Cheney in a primary. So far, two Wyoming Republicans have announced they will challenge Cheney.

“The good news is in her state, she’s been censured and in her state her poll numbers have dropped faster than any human being I’ve ever seen. So hopefully they’ll get rid of her with the next election. Get rid of them all!” Trump told CPAC attendees last month, referring to Republicans who sided against him during impeachment. 

Cheney will need money to compete with Trump’s deep-pocketed committees and outside groups aiming to unseat her such as the Club for Growth. PACs associated with several major companies — including Walmart, American Express, Morgan Stanley, T-Mobile and Pfizer — bankrolled Cheney’s accounts last month. AT&T, one of the top annual PAC donors, gave $10,000 to Cheney’s campaign. 

The stream of PAC donations is a break from tradition. In the 2020 cycle, 39 other House members raised more business PAC money than Cheney. She received $1.2 million from business PACs, far less than other members of leadership. 

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who raked in $2.3 million from business PACs in the 2020 cycle, didn’t receive any such PAC donations to start the new year. He was one of 147 Republicans who voted to overturn the 2020 election results. Several top firms are no longer donating to these lawmakers, although some company PACs continue to fund party committees overseen by them. 

Moderate GOP lawmakers, particularly anti-Trump Republicans, have emerged as early business PAC favorites. Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) ranks among the top PAC recipients so far, raising over $37,000. The six-term lawmaker launched a PAC to defend Republicans who sided against Trump. Kinzinger called Trump “an utter failure” over his recent comments downplaying the threat of Capitol insurrectionists.

Business PACs also favored a leadership PAC controlled by Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), a leading Republican Trump critic, and campaign accounts run by Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.). Trump attacked Thune in December for refusing to back his false claims that the election was stolen, stating on Twitter, “He will be primaried in 2022, political career over.” Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), another top Trump target, was the only active GOP candidate to receive money from Google’s PAC through February. 

Cheney and other anti-Trump Republicans will likely benefit from establishment support as Trump aims to remake the GOP in his image. Through February, Cheney received donations from leadership PACs controlled by Rep. Tom Rice (R-S.C.) and Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) — both voted against Trump on impeachment — as well as former Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Former House Speaker Paul Ryan is also raising money for Cheney’s reelection bid, Politico reported.

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Karl Evers-Hillstrom

Karl joined the Center for Responsive Politics in October 2018. As CRP’s money-in-politics reporter, he writes and edits stories for the news section and helps manage a team of diligent writers. A native of Brooklyn, New York, Karl graduated from State University of New York at New Paltz in 2016 with a B.A. in journalism. He previously worked at The Globe, a regional newspaper based in Worthington, Minnesota. His email is [email protected]

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