Every June, people from all walks of life celebrate Pride, honoring the social and legal progress that people in the LGBTQ communities have worked hard to achieve, and highlighting the obstacles they have yet to overcome. Over the years, corporate sponsorship of Pride events has been increasingly contentious — businesses are either praised for taking a stand or accused of virtue signaling and hypocrisy. A new study from Data for Progress argues the latter.
Data for Progress recently published its Corporate Accountability Project, which looks at Pride sponsors and sees which of these companies also donate to politicians who favor anti-LGBTQ legislation, according to a report from Motor1. Across all cities with Pride parades featuring corporate sponsorship, Toyota is listed as the company giving the most to anti-LGBTQ politicians, to the tune of $601,500, nearly twice that of the next company on the list. General Motors is on there, too, showing total donations of $48,500. The donations span a period of time from 2019 to 2022.
“The GM employee-funded PAC supports the election of US federal and state candidates from both sides of the aisle who foster sound business policies, support American workers and understand the importance of a robust domestic auto industry as we pursue an all-electric vehicle future,” said a GM spokesperson in an emailed statement. “GM is vocal about our commitment to the LGBTQ community in our company’s policies and we are a signatory of the Human Rights Campaign’s Business Statement Opposing Anti-LGBTQ State Legislation.”
Toyota’s response was a bit more complex. “Please be informed that [the] overwhelming vast majority of the political giving you attribute to ‘Toyota’ is not related to our company (Toyota Motor North America or TMNA),” said a Toyota spokesperson in an emailed statement. “All but $5,000 of the contributions referenced were made by other companies in which TMNA has no financial stake, influence nor control in how they manage their political donations.”
TMNA’s political action committee (PAC), Toyota Motor North America Inc. PAC, does list a $5,000 donation to Texas Governor Greg Abbott, who has supported a number of anti-LGBTQ measures during his tenure. The largest donations on the list — three separate six-figure donations to Abbott totaling $575,000 — come from Gulf States Toyota Inc. PAC, which was established by Gulf States Toyota, one of the largest independent Toyota distributors with a network spanning five states. That same PAC donated $15,000 to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who recently alleged that Austin Pride violated state law by classifying it as “human sexuality instruction.” The full list of the PAC’s donations can be found on the Federal Election Commission’s website.
The complexity prompts a different question, though. It appears that franchised dealers are given carte blanche to use an automaker’s name in any way they see fit with regards to political donations, whether or not the parent company necessarily agrees with it. When asked if Toyota had any standing to request that franchised dealers not use the automaker’s name when it comes to establishing PACs, in part to avoid any negative correlations associated with political donations, a Toyota spokesperson did not return a request for comment.
This is not the first time that the obtuse nature of political donations has placed an automaker in hot water. Toyota actually ended up in a similar situation when Axios reported that the OEM led corporate America in its donations to Republicans who objected to certifying the 2020 presidential election. At the time, Toyota said in a statement to Axios that the company “[did] not believe it is appropriate to judge members of Congress solely based on their votes on electoral certification,” but the automaker did change its donating habits shortly thereafter. However, some of those donations started again in 2022, with the company saying that it will not support “those who, by their words and actions, create an atmosphere that incites violence,” according to a report from CBS News.