Donald Trump has promised to liven up this year’s Republican National Convention. But some of America’s biggest corporations are bailing on the party.
Apple recently became the latest company to give the GOP’s presumptive nominee the cold shoulder; it won’t contribute money or products to the Republicans’ big shindig in Cleveland this month. HP Inc. is also withholding support, while Microsoft is giving products only, not cash. Beyond the tech industry, Ford, JPMorgan Chase and United Parcel Service have opted to withhold support.
Most of these companies are also taking a pass on donating to the 2016 Democratic convention. In previous election cycles, though, several of them have given Republican organizers more — sometimes far more — in cash or donated products than they have the Democrats, making their pullback from the Republican gathering this year more dramatic.
WHY COMPANIES ARE UNEASY
The reasons aren’t completely clear. None of these companies publicly described its decisions as a repudiation of Trump. Several declined to discuss their thinking, while others said their sponsorship plans were decided months before Trump emerged as the front-runner for the GOP nomination.
In many cases, however, their decisions became known after civil rights groups launched a public effort — including billboards, letters and online messages — aimed at persuading companies to withhold support for an event celebrating a candidate who’s campaigned with incendiary proposals , racial rhetoric and harsh comments about immigrants and women.
“Of course it’s because of Trump,” said Larry Sabato, a University of Virginia political scientist who has studied party conventions for more than 30 years. Business executives, he said, don’t want to alienate customers who may be offended by Trump’s statements. “Just as candidates don’t get votes from people they insult,” he said, “corporations don’t get business from people they insult.”
Even so, Republican convention organizers say their fundraising is going well. More than 100 donors have contributed a total of $57.5 million, or about 90 percent of what’s needed, said Emily Lauer of the Cleveland 2016 Host Committee. She declined to provide a list of sponsors. Trump’s campaign did not respond to requests for comment.
APPLE AND THE REPUBLICANS
Apple made headlines after Politico reported the tech giant won’t support the GOP convention because of Trump’s divisive statements. Apple declined to comment on its plans for either convention this year, although Lauer confirmed to The Associated Press that the company isn’t a sponsor for the GOP gathering. A spokeswoman for Democratic organizers declined to comment.
Apple CEO Tim Cook has publicly supported diversity and fair treatment of immigrants. Trump, meanwhile, has publicly blasted the company for manufacturing its products abroad and for resisting FBI demands to help unlock an encrypted iPhone used by a terrorist killer in San Bernardino, California.
As if to underscore that Apple’s dispute is with Trump but not the GOP, Cook hosted a California fundraiser for House Speaker Paul Ryan and other congressional Republicans last week. Ryan has endorsed Trump, but opposed his call to temporarily ban foreign Muslims from entering the country and criticized a Trump remark as “the textbook definition of a racist comment.”
Apple hasn’t been a big cash donor to past conventions, although it gave $165,000 in computers and other tech gear for the 2008 GOP gathering and $140,000 worth of products to that year’s Democratic event. It also loaned iPhones to organizers of the 2012 Republican convention.
DOWN IN THE VALLEY
Another well-known tech company, Hewlett-Packard, gave a total of $1 million in cash and tech gear for the two previous GOP conventions. While organizers of the 2012 Democratic convention didn’t accept corporate cash, HP gave $100,000 to the Democrats’ gathering in 2008.
HP has since split into two corporations; neither is donating to either convention this year. Meg Whitman, the chairman of HP Inc. and CEO of spinoff Hewlett Packard Enterprise, has been a prominent Republican fundraiser over the years. But she has called Trump “a dishonest demagogue” and said his nomination would be disastrous for the party.
Not every Silicon Valley company has followed suit. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has criticized Trump’s proposal for a wall on the Mexican border to block illegal immigration. But his company said it’s providing “financial and other support” to both conventions. Google said it will be the official “livestream provider” of online video from both events.
Microsoft said in April that it’s providing tech products to both party conventions this year but will give cash — it hasn’t said how much — only to the Democratic event. Microsoft has made hefty donations to past Republican conventions. It gave $815,000 in cash and more than $700,000 in products in 2012, while providing $1.3 million in cash and products to the Republican gathering in 2008.
By contrast, Microsoft has given less support to previous Democratic gatherings. It provided $71,000 in software for the 2012 Democratic convention and $640,000 worth of products in 2008.
ELSEWHERE IN THE FORTUNE 100
Several other companies said they’re not supporting either party’s event this year. UPS donated more than $400,000 in cash and services to the GOP convention in 2012 and a similar amount to the Republicans in 2008, while providing $125,000 worth of donated services to the Democrats in 2012 and far less in 2008. Spokeswoman Kara Ross said her company decided last year that it wouldn’t give to either event in 2016, citing budgetary reasons unrelated to Trump’s candidacy.
Similarly, Ford Motor Co. says it decided to sit out both conventions last year, well before Trump emerged as the front-runner. JPMorgan Chase says it decided near the start of 2016 to donate money instead to youth employment programs in this year’s host cities. Both companies gave cash to the Republican convention in 2012 and equal amounts to both party gatherings in 2008.
Coca-Cola has also reconsidered its support. The soft-drink maker donated $666,000 in cash and another $100,000 worth of beverages to the Republican event in 2012, while donating $70,000 worth of products to the Democrats that year, after giving equal gifts of $150,000 to each party gathering in 2008. It gave $75,000 to each party’s host committee in 2015, but said in late March that it won’t give any more this year. The company declined to comment further.
Activists had urged Coca-Cola and other companies to withhold support for the GOP convention, citing what they called Trump’s “hatred and violent rhetoric.”
“We don’t run this campaign every four years,” said Rashad Robinson, executive director for the activist group Color of Change. “This is a moment where corporations should be saying this is not something they want their brand connected to.”