Toyota changes stand, halts donations to election objectors

DETROIT — Toyota has reversed itself and now says its political action committee will no longer contribute to the Republican legislators who voted against certifying Joe Biden’s presidential election victory.

The move by the Japanese automaker comes after a social media backlash over the contributions, including threats to stop buying the company’s vehicles.

“We understand that the PAC decision to support select members of Congress who contested the results troubled some stakeholders,” Toyota said in a statement Thursday. “We are actively listening to our stakeholders, and at this time, have decided to stop contributing to those members of Congress who contested the certification of certain states in the 2020 election.”

Last week the website Axios reported that Toyota led companies in donations to the 147 members of Congress who voted in January against certifying election results on the false grounds that the election was stolen from then-President Donald Trump.

The Axios report, based on data gathered by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said that Toyota donated $55,000 to 37 Republican objectors this year. That number was more than double the amount donated by the second-highest donor, Cubic Corp., a defense contractor in San Francisco, Axios said.

Toyota will not seek refunds of contributions it already has made, spokesman Scott Vazin said Thursday in an email. He said the company hasn’t decided if or when it will resume the contributions.

Immediately after Toyota’s spending was reported, the company defended it, saying it did not believe it’s appropriate to judge legislators based only on their electoral certification vote.

The company took input from employees and government officials, Vazin said. But the most important factor was customer feedback, he said. “That really drives our decision making,” he said.

Contribution data showed that 34 companies donated at least $5,000 to the campaigns and leadership political action committees of one or more election objectors this year, Axios reported.

In addition to criticism on Twitter and elsewhere, the Lincoln Project, a group opposed to Trump, released an internet ad urging people to call Toyota to get the company to stop contributing to the GOP members of Congress.

Shortly after the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, dozens of big companies, citing their commitment to democracy, pledged to avoid donating money to the 147 lawmakers. It was a striking gesture by some of the most familiar names in business but was largely an empty one.

Six months later, many of those companies have resumed funneling cash to political action committees that benefit the election efforts of lawmakers whether they objected to the election certification or not.

Walmart, Pfizer, Intel, General Electric and AT&T are among companies that announced their pledges on behalf of democracy in the days after Trump supporters stormed the Capitol in a violent bid to disrupt the transfer of power. The companies contend that donating directly to a candidate is not the same as giving to a PAC that supports them.