Toyota has come under fire after news emerged that it has donated significant sums of money to Republicans who voted against certifying the results of the 2020 general election.
According to data compiled by the political watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) and reported by Axios, Toyota gave $55,000 to 37 Republican objectors this year, a number that amounts to about a quarter of the lawmakers who voted against certifying President Joe Biden's win.
A spokesperson for the automaker soon released a statement defending its donations:
"Toyota supports candidates based on their position on issues that are important to the auto industry and the company. We do not believe it is appropriate to judge members of Congress solely based on their votes on the electoral certification. 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."
The blowback was immediate; the hashtag #Toyota soon began to trend.
Perhaps the most pointed criticisms came from CREW themselves, whose report lambasts corporate and industry interests who have donated to the Sedition Caucus, a pejorative term for the Republicans who voted against certifying the election results.
Many social media users also weighed in. Some identified themselves as Toyota owners and vowed never to purchase a car from the company again.
Others decried the company for backing an "existential threat" to American democracy.
In January, several high-profile companies announced they would suspend donations to lawmakers who objected to the certification of the election. But CREW's report found that 34 companies have donated at least $5,000 to the campaigns and leadership PACs of one or more election objectors this year. The data shows that Toyota donated close to double the total amount than any other company and to nearly five times as many candidates as the next leading company, the public transport company Cubic Corporation, which made eight donations.
Among those who benefited from Toyota's donations: Representative Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), who helped organize the "Stop the Steal" rally prior to the Capitol riot, which took place after a mob of former President Donald Trump's supporters stormed the Capitol, spurred by his falsehoods about the election results.
CREW found that corporations allied with the Sedition Caucus began to donate money just days after the Capitol riot. In fact, donations started "just days after the insurrection, and within the first few months after the deadly attack, their total contributions had already climbed into the millions of dollars."
The watchdog group further points out that several of these companies, which include Cigna and AT&T, have since donated to lawmakers despite saying they would not. (In January, just days after the insurrection at the Capitol, John Murabito, the chief human resources officer of Cigna, identified the attack as one of a spate of issues that "are so foundational to our core fiber that they transcend all other matters of public policy.")