Some top Republican donors are walking away from members of Congress who supported former president Donald Trump’s challenge to the 2020 election.
That exodus isn’t likely to significantly hurt the re-election chances of U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Saks, political science experts say. But it may represent a significant change in the political landscape for Republicans.
“This is a fairly bold move, but let’s not overestimate it either,” said Jess Brown, a retired professor of political science who taught at Athens State University.
Since the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, dozens of major corporations have announced they are either cutting off contributions to lawmakers who voted against certification of the election results — or putting campaign spending on hold entirely.
According to accounts in the Washington Post, CNN and other news outlets, those companies include major donors to Republican candidates such as AT&T, Lockheed Martin, Honeywell International and Northrop Grumman.
Rogers, the Anniston area’s Congressman, is likely to be among the politicians cut off by those donors. A Trump ally and one of the early proponents for creation of the U.S. Space Force, Rogers supported Trump in his suits against the election results and voted against certification on Jan. 6.
Federal Election Commission records show that in the 2020 election cycle, Rogers pulled in at least $42,000 in campaign contributions from companies now saying they will withdraw contributions.
Attempts to reach Rogers for comment were unsuccessful. But in pure dollar terms, the loss of those donors may not be enough to break the Congressman’s stride.
Rogers pulled in more than $1.1 million in total contributions in the 2020 election cycle. His 2020 opponent, Talladega Democrat Adia McClellan Winfrey, raised a total of roughly $50,000.
Lori Owens, a political science professor at Jacksonville State University, said it’s not even clear that the corporate donors will stand by their decision to walk away from Trump supporters.
“If these wind up being lawmakers who get re-elected, these companies may come back around,” Owens said.
Brown said that no matter the dollar figure, the sight of corporate donors openly saying no to GOP incumbents is unusual.
“By their very nature, these corporate PACs work in the background,” Brown said. “The mere fact that they did this seems like a major change.”
Brown said its likely corporate donors will find other, less-visible ways to give money to Republican incumbents like Rogers. One possible path is to give to party committees that, in turn, would dole out funds to individual candidates.
That could put more power in the hands of party leaders, who would decide who gets the campaign cash — and who could work to steer the party away from the influence of Trump.
Trump himself has in recent days proposed creating a separate political party, possibly called the Patriot Party, to compete with both Democrats and Republicans.
Brown said it’s unlikely Trump will successfully create a true third party, which would require significant work in all 50 states. Trump hasn’t shown an ability to sustain interest in a project for that long, he said.
But there’s also a chance Trump’s “party” could emerge as a movement that makes endorsements in GOP primaries, giving a boost to outsiders who challenge incumbents and pushing candidates toward Trump’s positions.
“This is the nightmare scenario for some Republicans,” Brown said. “He’ll go around to Republicans and say, ‘Do you endorse my platform? Because if you don’t we’re going to recruit a candidate and we’re going to put them in the primary.’”
Brown and Owens both say it’s unlikely the corporate donors who abandon lawmakers like Rogers will turn around and give their money to a Democrat, or to a primary opponent.
Rogers, Owens noted, is the ranking minority member on the powerful House Armed Services Committee, and could be the chairman of that committee if Republicans retake the House in 2022 or 2024. By the time Rogers is up for re-election, she said, donors may decide they want to support him.
“It’s hard to tell where we’re going to be even three months from now,” she said. “Three months ago, who would have thought that events like Jan. 6 would have happened?”