CEOs demand action on gun violence but gave thousands to Republicans blocking it

John Cornyn with Ted Cruz

The best way to see good public policy enacted is to not contribute money to the people who fiercely oppose it.

A group of 145 corporate CEOs released a letter on Thursday demanding immediate congressional action on gun violence. The group specifically urged members of the Senate to enact universal background checks for gun sales and red flag legislation to allow courts to issue extreme risk protection orders for those deemed a serious threat to themselves or others.

But a Shareblue review of campaign finance records found that several of the signers have made recent individual contributions to the very people blocking that legislation. Corporate political action committees for several of the companies have also distributed tens of thousands of dollars to lawmakers who have opposed similar legislation.

"As leaders of some of America's most respected companies and those with significant business interests in the United States, we are writing to you because we have a responsibility and obligation to stand up for the safety of our employees, customers and all Americans in the communities we serve across the country," the executives wrote in the letter. "Gun violence in America is not inevitable, it's preventable."

Some of the CEOs who authored the letter include Condé Nast's Roger Lynch, Dick's Sporting Goods' Edward Stack, Ecolab's Doug Baker, Gap's Art Peck, Twitter and Square's Jack Dorsey, and Uber's Dara Khosrowshahi.

According to campaign finance records posted online by the Center for Responsive Politics, while these donors gave to Democratic lawmakers who support gun reform, many of the CEOs who signed the letter, and/or their corporate PACs, gave donations to senators who have opposed universal background checks in the past and to leaders in the House who voted against similar legislation this year.

Condé Nast's Roger Lynch gave $2,500 each to Sens. Ron Johnson (R-WI) and Tim Scott (R-SC) — both of whom voted against the Manchin-Toomey background check expansion proposal in 2013. Lynch also gave $2,500 to now-Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT). The then-presidential candidate opposed expanding background checks during his unsuccessful 2008 campaign and recently reiterated his concerns about the idea, while expressing some openness to expansion.

Dick's Sporting Goods' Edward Stack gave $2,700 to Sen. David Perdue (R-GA), $5,400 to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and $5,000 to Romney. Perdue has said he opposes the House background checks bill, suggesting it might "do away with the [S]econd [A]mendment," though he has suggested he might back a similar idea.

Ecolab's Doug Baker gave $5,000 to the leadership PAC for Rep. Tom Emmer (R-MN). Ecolab's corporate PAC gave at least $1,000 each to Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), John Barrasso (R-WY), John Boozman (R-AR), John Cornyn (R-TX), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Mike Enzi (R-WY), Deb Fischer (R-NE), John Hoeven (R-ND), Rob Portman (R-OH), John Thune (R-SD), and Roger Wicker (R-MI). All 11 voted against Manchin-Toomey.

In an email to Shareblue, Baker said he signed this week's letter "because safety is of one of Ecolab’s core values."

"Gun violence affects the safety of our employees, customers and our communities, and we believe that strengthening laws to help keep guns out of the hands of those who should not have them is a critical step in ending senseless gun violence," Baker wrote. He did not indicate whether votes on this would impact future donations.

Gap's corporate PAC gave $2,500 to Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC), who voted against universal background checks in 2016, $1,000 each to Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Portman, and $7,600 to McCarthy.

Twitter's corporate PAC gave $2,700 to Wicker, $1,000 to Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), $1,000 to Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), and $2,500 to Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS). Each has voted against background checks in the past.

Uber's Dara Khosrowshah gave $5,000 to Lee. After Lee voted against Manchin-Toomey, he explained that "you cannot track all gun sales without tracking gun owners" and said the "government has no business monitoring constitutionally protected activity, like gun ownership, any more than it has any business tracking what books Americans read or how often they attend church."

Shareblue reached out to each of these donors to ask if the politicians' actions will affect future giving. Only one, Ecolab's Doug Baker, responded immediately.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has so far said he will not bring up any legislation to address mass gun violence until Trump stops wavering and decides what he would sign into law.

This article was updated to include comments from Ecolab CEO Doug Baker.