Corporate PACs resume bankrolling racist Mississippi senator

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During her 2018 special election campaign, several major corporate PACs asked for refunds of their contributions to Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS) after she made a series of racist comments, including saying she would happily follow a supporter to the “front row” if he invited her to a public hanging. But as she gears up for her 2020 race to win a full term in the Senate, several business PACs are already lining up to help re-elect her.

Hyde-Smith, who was appointed by Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R) in March 2018 to replace Sen. Thad Cochran (R), eventually issued a semi-apology to “anyone that was offended” by her lynching “joke.”

The state of Mississippi notably has a long history of lynchings. According to the NAACP, Mississippi “had the highest lynchings from 1882-1968 with 581.” Georgia and Texas were second and third, with 531 and 493 lynchings, respectively, in the same time period.

In the aftermath of that comment, several other disturbing details came to light. Hyde-Smith had previously praised a Confederate soldier for attempting to “defend his homeland.” She made jokes celebrating voter suppression. She posted photos to Facebook with Confederate items and a “Mississippi history at its best!” caption.

After these stories became national news, Aetna, Facebook, Major League Baseball, Google, Walmart, AT&T and Pfizer all asked for refunds of their corporate PAC contributions to Hyde-Smith. Reportedly, she did not comply with all of those requests.

Despite this, Federal Election Commission data shows that several corporate and trade association PACs sent Hyde-Smith new contributions over the first quarter of 2019. They include:

  • ExxonMobil ($5,000), the fossil fuel behemoth
  • National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors ($5,000), the trade association for distribution companies
  • National Chicken Council ($5,000), the trade association for the poultry industry
  • National Association of Realtors ($3,000), the trade association for real estate agents
  • American Waterways Operators ($2,500), the trade association for the tugboat, towboat, and barge industry
  • T-Mobile USA ($2,500), the telecom giant
  • Genentech ($2,500), the biotech company that makes Tamiflu and Boniva — now a subsidiary of Roche
  • Foley & Lardner ($1,000), a large legal and lobbying firm
  • General Dynamics ($1,000), the defense contractor and aerospace company
  • Resolute Forest Products US ($1,000), the American branch of a Canadian pulp and paper manufacturer

The National Association of FSA Office Employees (NASCOE), a labor union for the USDA Farm Service Agency employees also contributed $1,000.

Hyde-Smith also received the legal maximum donation of $10,000 from Dirigo PAC, the leadership PAC controlled by Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME). Collins, who has run as a pro-choice moderate, faces a tough re-election herself next year after she voted to confirm both Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

ThinkProgress reached out to each of these entities to ask whether they stand by the donations.

A spokesperson for Resolute Forest Products told ThinkProgress in an email that he was “not familiar with the comments alleged.” While he noted that the company “certainly believes in the importance of a diverse and inclusive workforce and work environment,” he said Hyde-Smith “represents our operations in MS and has been supportive of the operation and its employees.”

A spokesperson for Genentech emailed that the contribution had been approved prior to news reports about Hyde-Smith’s racist comments, but vowed that the company’s PAC “will not be making any further donations to the Senator’s campaign again in the future.”

None of the other corporate and trade association PACs responded to requests for comment by publication time.

Hyde-Smith may already be facing a primary challenger for 2020. Gerard Gibert, a Madison County businessman and Mississippi Lottery Board vice chair, said earlier this month that has he is “thinking about” a possible run for her seat.






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