Members of Congress who receive donations from Toyota continue to oppose LGBTQ rights and racial justice.
Toyota's political action committee said this week that it decided to overlook lawmakers' votes to overturn the 2020 presidential election. A review of recipients of the PAC's donations reveals it also overlooked votes of members of Congress against legislation intended to bar discrimination against LGBTQ people, curb climate change, and address police violence and systemic racism.
After most congressional Republicans voted to reject President Joe Biden's electors in some states, even after the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, the automobile giant said that it would rethink its political giving. "Given recent events and the horrific attack on the U.S. Capitol, we are assessing our future PAC criteria," a Toyota Motor Corporation spokesperson told E&E News on Jan. 13.
But any pause for assessment did not last long. By early February, the Toyota Motor North America Inc. Political Action Committee had already resumed sending four-figure checks to congressional incumbents, including several who had backed the efforts to reverse Biden's win just weeks earlier.
Last Wednesday, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington released a report examining corporate PAC donations so far this year to the 147 Republicans who backed the challenges to Biden's electors. The nonpartisan watchdog group dubbed them the "Sedition Caucus."
The report found that Toyota's PAC had given to the largest number of those incumbents by far, backing 37 of them. In total, the PAC gave at least $55,000 to House Republicans who rejected the election results.
"We do not believe it is appropriate to judge members of Congress solely based on their votes on the electoral certification," a company spokesperson told Axios on Monday, adding that after a "thorough review," the PAC "decided against giving to some members who, through their statements and actions, undermine the legitimacy of our elections and institutions."
But a review of Federal Election Commission data by The American Independent Foundation suggests that Toyota also did not choose to judge them based on their votes on other key issues on which the company has staked a public position.
In recent years, Toyota has marketed itself as a socially responsible corporation, committed to sustainability and civil rights.
One such public commitment is to LGBTQ equality.
"We have to admit: We like perfect scores, especially when it's for a national benchmarking survey establishing and implementing policies that allow Toyota team members to bring their full, authentic selves to work every day," the company wrote in February, pointing to its 100% ratings on the Human Rights Campaign's Corporate Equality Index.
"With Respect for People as our North Star, Toyota continues to ensure that equality is and will always be a priority," it said.
But 49 of the GOP lawmakers who received at least $1,000 from Toyota's PAC in the first quarter of 2021 voted against the Equality Act, a landmark bill that would ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity and expression, in May 2019.
Many of those — including Arizona Rep. Andy Biggs, North Carolina Rep. Virginia Foxx, Missouri Rep. Vicky Hartzler, and Arizona Rep. Debbie Lesko — were the same people who voted to overturn the 2020 election.
When the new House passed its version of the bill on Feb. 25 of this year, 67 Toyota-funded incumbents voted no.
Toyota has also presented itself as committed to diversity and anti-racism.
After George Floyd was murdered by a Minneapolis police officer in May 2020 and millions of people took to the streets across the world to protest systemic racism and police violence, corporations across America issued responses backing reform. Toyota backed the Black Lives Matter protests in a June 3, 2020, statement against "social injustice."
"So now more than ever, we will encourage a constructive dialog to guide our actions as we continue to improve how we contribute to society, and inspire unity in every aspect of our lives, our business and our communities," the company vowed. "Our message to those who are hurting is: We see you. We hear you. And, we stand with you and for you."
On June 25, 2020, the House of Representatives passed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, a bill to combat racial bias in policing and increase accountability for police violence. Fifty of the House Republicans who voted no still received Toyota PAC donations in the first quarter of 2021.
And after years of lobbying against climate protections, Toyota has tried to reposition itself as a strong backer of the Paris Agreement, the international treaty on combating greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.
"Toyota acknowledges climate change as a priority management issue," the company said in its 2020 North American Environmental Report, "and supports the goals of the Paris Agreement, a pact agreed to by 196 countries that commits to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in order to keep warming well below 2° Celsius, and to pursue efforts to limit warming to 1.5° Celsius."
After then-President Donald Trump vowed to withdraw from the treaty, the House passed the Climate Action Now Act in May 2019 to require the nation to stay in and comply with the agreement.
Fifty-three of the representatives who received donations from Toyota's PAC in the first quarter of 2021 voted against the bill.
The American Independent Foundation asked Toyota about the PAC's donations.
A spokesperson responded with an emailed statement:
With plants in 9 states and Toyota/Lexus dealerships in almost every Congressional district, the Toyota Lexus PAC supports a diverse number of candidates throughout the country. The PAC is bipartisan and structured so that no political party receives more than 60 percent of the overall donations and no less than 40%. Because the party make up of Congress changes from election to election, the percentage of donations to each party will rise and fall.
The spokesperson did not address questions about the votes or what criteria are used to determine whom to fund.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.