While the moderate Democrats finished behind Bernie Sanders in New Hampshire, fellow 2020 presidential hopefuls Amy Klobuchar, Pete Buttigieg and Joe Biden are winning over the CEOs of S&P 500 companies, as top executives cast votes with their wallets.
Sanders, the independent senator from Vermont who is now leading in national polls, hasn’t attracted any donations from chief executive officers of S&P components. Neither has his fellow progressive White House hopeful, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.
Instead, seven bosses have given their own money to the presidential campaign of Sen. Klobuchar of Minnesota, while former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Buttigieg also has drawn contributions from seven S&P CEOs.
Five have supported former Vice President Biden’s campaign. That’s shown in the chart below and based on a MarketWatch analysis of Federal Election Commission data on individual contributions made in 2019 to a candidate’s principal presidential campaign committee, as reported for a Jan. 31 filing deadline.
The lack of S&P CEO giving to Sanders and Warren makes sense to Bruce Freed, president of the Center for Political Accountability, a nonprofit that pushes for better disclosure of corporate political activity.
“I’m not surprised that there are no CEOs for Warren or Sanders, because they have been attacking the conduct of companies, and they’ve been calling for major structural change,” Freed said.
“On the other side, those candidates don’t want that money because they have been using that to attack their opponents,” Freed added. “Just take a look at the attacks on Buttigieg, [with Sanders supporters] calling him ‘Wall Street Pete’ because he’s taken some Wall Street money.”
Most of the CEOs have donated $2,800, as that’s the maximum that an individual can give to a candidate in an election. But a few execs have donated $5,600, as donors are allowed to shell out $2,800 for the primary election and $2,800 for the general election. Candidates who don’t advance beyond the primary must then refund, redesignate or reattribute any donations received for the general election, according to FEC rules.
The donations in a half-dozen instances show S&P (SPX)CEOs supporting top politicians in their companies’ home states. Such contributions are at least in part about maintaining a relationship, observed the Center for Political Accountability’s Freed.
Klobuchar, Minnesota’s senior senator, received donations from four execs at companies that have headquarters in Minnesota — Ecolab’s (ECL) Doug Baker, General Mills’ (GIS) Jeff Harmening, Best Buy’s (BBY) Hubert Joly (who stepped down as CEO in June) and Medtronic’s (MDT) Omar Ishrak. In Medtronic’s case, the maker of medical devices has its operational base in Minnesota, but its legal headquarters is in Ireland.
Buttigieg, the former mayor of Indiana’s fourth-largest city, drew a donation from the head honcho at Indiana-based Simon Property Group (SPG) , David Simon. Biden, a longtime Delaware senator before he joined the Barack Obama 2008 presidential ticket, received a contribution from CEO Steven Collis of AmerisourceBergen Corp. (ABC) , which is based in Pennsylvania, the state where Biden was born and has his campaign headquarters.
Klobuchar’s other S&P CEO contributions came from the bosses of Georgia-based Delta Air Lines Inc. (DAL) , Virginia-based Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc. (HLT)and Maryland-based Marriott International Inc. (MAR) .
Buttigieg also got a contribution from Marriott’s boss.
His other S&P CEO donations came from the leaders of Ireland-based Allergan PLC (AGN) , Delaware-based Incyte Corp. (INCY) , California-based Netflix Inc. (NFLX) , New York–based Nielsen Holdings PLC (NLSN)and California-based Prologis Inc. (PLD) .
Biden’s other S&P CEO donations came from the heads of Connecticut-based Amphenol Corp. (APH) , California-based Essex Property Trust Inc. (ESS) , New York–based Henry Schein Inc. (HSIC)and Nevada-based MGM Resorts International (MGM) .
In fundraising overall, as of Dec. 31, Sanders has been leading the Democratic field when it comes to receiving money from supporters, raking in $96 million. But billionaire company founders Michael Bloomberg and Tom Steyer are well ahead of their fellow 2020 Democrats in spending, fueled by Bloomberg’s giving $200 million of his own money to his self-funded campaign and Steyer contributing $202 million to his.
Responses from campaigns and companies
“Unlike other candidates, Bernie doesn’t take money from rich corporate CEOs, doesn’t bend his policy proposals to their will and will never carry their water as president,” said the Sanders campaign’s national policy director and senior adviser, Josh Orton, in a statement. “In a Sanders administration, working families will finally have a president they can trust to deliver the progressive change we desperately need.”
Biden’s campaign declined to comment, and Buttigieg’s, Klobuchar’s and Warren’s teams didn’t respond to requests for comment. A Biden spokesman last year stressed that the former vice president’s 2020 effort was “powered by hundreds of thousands of grassroots supporters who are backing him,” when the campaign was asked how voters should think about CEO support.
A Marriott spokeswoman said Wednesday that the company “does not comment on the personal political giving of our executives,” and a spokesman for rival hotelier Hilton said it’s “not a company’s place to comment on the personal donation of a team member.”
A Medtronic spokesman referred to a company policy of not commenting on personal political contributions of executives and employees, and General Mills said its employees are “free to make personal contributions to political campaigns as they wish.” Henry Schein said the company’s policy is to make no national political campaign contributions itself, and “individual contributions are just that — individual donations that have nothing to do with the company.”
Netflix and Nielsen declined to comment. Ecolab, Delta, Best Buy, Allergan, Simon, Prologis, Incyte, AmerisourceBergen, Amphenol, MGM Resorts and Essex didn’t respond to requests for comment.
S&P 500 CEOs giving to Trump
On the Republican side of the White House race, five S&P 500 CEOs have given their own money to President Donald Trump’s principal campaign committee.
Universal Health Services Inc.’s (UHS) Alan Miller and Copart Inc.’s (CPRT) Jay Adair each donated $5,600. Cintas Corp.’s (CTAS)Scott Farmer contributed $2,500, Waste Management Inc.’s (WM)Jim Fish gave $832.50, and Vornado Realty Trust’s (VNO)Steve Roth gave $200.
Their companies didn’t respond to requests for comment, nor did Trump’s campaign.