TARP-Aided Firms Give Big to PACs

October 25, 2010; Source: Washington Post | Many nonprofits had criticisms of the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) that bailed out banks, insurance companies, and Detroit automakers, suggesting that hard-pressed charities needed just as much help to meet burgeoning human service needs at a time when charitable support and government funding were tanking.

Today’s Washington Post article about the generosity of TARP-subsidized companies to Political Action Committees is shocking for the hubris of companies like General Motors, which put $190,000 toward campaigns in the past month—including money to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) who opposed TARP support for the automaker.

GM has company: 23 corporations (with PACs) that received $1billion in TARP funds donated just short of $1 million in August and $1.4 million in September to political candidates, most of them Republicans – the party that didn’t generally support the TARP bailout in the first place. The top two recipients of TARP corporations’ political donations have been House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) and House Republican Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA).

Why is this important to nonprofits? Remember NPQ’s coverage of the anonymous corporate contributions to 501(c)(4) organizations. Contributions to PACs must be disclosed. In the wake of the Citizens United decision, unrestricted, uncapped corporate donations to 501(c)(4)s can be kept secret. If they’ve given a disclosed $1.4 million to PACs in September, just imagine how much undisclosed money went to “nonprofits” engaged in electioneering—the large bulk of that in support of Republicans.

Here’s the ultimate irony: many of the TARP-subsidized corporations making these political donations still owe money to the government, the TARP subsidies that were supposed to have been repaid.—Rick Cohen