A report last week succeeded in stirring public anger over Toyota Motor North America's donations this year to federal lawmakers, although it tells only part of the story.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington released an article headlined "This sedition is brought to you by…," which tabulated corporate money given since Jan. 6 to 147 Republican members of Congress who voted against certifying Joe Biden's victory in the 2020 presidential election. Media reports zeroed in on Toyota, which as of a Thursday, July 1, tally had donated to 38 of those lawmakers, more than any other company, for a total of $56,000, according to the group.
Consumers who were outraged by those politicians' behavior took to social media to blast Toyota, as well as Walmart, insurance giant Cigna and similar corporate donors — as they have done throughout the year as companies, including Ford Motor Co., declined to blackball legislators who failed to accept the legally counted votes.
What the latest report lacks is context. Toyota's offices and factories are mostly in conservative, red states — including Texas, Kentucky, Indiana, Mississippi, Alabama and West Virginia. Yet when Automotive News reviewed public records about the company's political action committee, it found that its more than $1 million of donations were almost evenly split: 49 percent went to Republicans and 51 percent went to Democrats.
It is apparent that Toyota is hedging its bets in Congress — which is either smart or eyebrow-raising, depending on one's perspective.
"We do not believe it is appropriate to judge members of Congress solely based on their votes on the electoral certification," Toyota said last week. "Based on our thorough review we decided against giving to some members who, through their statements and actions, undermine the legitimacy of our elections and institutions."
To be sure, consumers absolutely have the right to refuse to patronize a business for political or social reasons. Any company that donated to lawmakers who tried to undermine our democracy and helped fan the flames that led to the horrifying January attack on the U.S. Capitol building should expect public backlash. Whether it's worth the cost, each company must decide for itself.