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Most top CEOs aren’t giving to either Trump or Biden

CEOs are largely keeping their money away from presidential politics in 2024.

The heads of 98 of America’s 100 biggest companies have chosen not to financially support either of the major party’s standard-bearers so far, according to a Yahoo Finance analysis of the latest federal campaign finance filings tracking donations through early June.

These top bosses have personally given only about $88,000 to presidential candidates, and most of that money went to Donald Trump’s primary rivals who are no longer in the race.

Not a single one of these executives has given a disclosed donation to Trump — confirming a similar recent analysis by Jeffrey Sonnenfeld of the Yale Chief Executive Leadership Institute.

But the data also shows a paltry level of support for Joe Biden as well, with just two major CEOs giving to the president, according to the latest data, which runs through the beginning of June.

Those executives are Sarah London of healthcare company Centene (CNC) and Timothy Sweeney of Liberty Mutual Insurance Group. Representatives from Centene and Liberty Mutual didn’t respond to requests for comment from Yahoo Finance.

But these executives aren’t avoiding national politics altogether. By a whopping 19 to 1 margin, they are instead putting their dollars behind an array of candidates for Congress.

The analysis is based on campaign finance filings of the CEOs of America’s 100 largest companies by revenue as measured by Fortune. These bosses collectively manage more than 16 million employees and run companies worth nearly $26 trillion.

The trend so far in this election cycle appears to be a continuation of a decline in top CEO engagement in the presidential elections, a trend that has coincided with Donald Trump’s appearance on the political scene.

Way back in 2012, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis, a whopping 27 Fortune 100 CEOs gave to Republican nominee Mitt Romney while five gave to then-President Barack Obama.

By 2020, that figure had dropped to just six CEOs willing to give. Four gave to Biden, with two sending checks to Trump.

This time around, both Trump and Biden do have their business world backers. Figures like Blackstone (BX) CEO Steve Schwarzman and venture capitalist David Sacks are prominently supporting Trump. Meanwhile, LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman is a prominent supporter of Biden.

But those charged with overseeing the largest companies in the world appear to be staying away, at least financially.

A slim majority of this group — 51 out of the 100 analyzed by Yahoo Finance — are avoiding any personal entanglement with the 2024 race.

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They, so far at least, have not made a single penny in disclosed donations to any candidate for president, any congressional race, or any group promoting a specific political issue.

That group includes some of the biggest names in corporate America, from the CEOs of Apple (AAPL) and Walmart (WMT) to Citigroup (C) and Walt Disney (DIS).

Well-connected Americans of course have a wide variety of ways to engage in the 2024 race that won’t show up in government campaign finance data.

CEOs can give to “dark money” groups that aren’t required to disclose their donors. These CEOs also often give to their company’s in-house political action committees, which can then turn around and give money to candidates (although data shows those company committees are less inclined to donate this time around as well.)

CEOs also have the ability to be intricately involved in the political conversation without opening their wallets. Perhaps no top CEO has been as closely involved in the race as Tesla (TSLA) CEO Elon Musk, who constantly weighs in with posts critical of Biden while he reportedly speaks to Trump several times a month.

“I am not donating money to either candidate for US President,” Musk said in a recent post. The data shows he has gone further than that. Musk, at least through this spring, appears not to have given a dime to any 2024 federal political candidate.

The middling support for the top of the 2024 ticket contrasts with about $1.7 million headed into the coffers of congressional candidates from these executives so far, according to the analysis.

The money that these CEOs are giving is highly focused in the race for Congress, where control of both chambers is up in the air and a wide array of industry issues can be impacted by lawmaker actions.

Research in 2022 from Harvard Business School found approximately 70% of top executives at S&P 500 companies identify as Republicans. As such, the donations so far this election season tend to skew Republican but are far from universal.

Moderate Democrats show up often. Sen. Jon Tester is locked in a tight reelection campaign in Montana and is a frequent recipient.

Likewise for Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, who left the Democratic party to become an independent and then ultimately decided not to seek reelection in 2024 after a short campaign.

ATLANTA, GEORGIA, UNITED STATES - JUNE 27: President of the United States Joe Biden and Former President Donald Trump participate in the first Presidential Debate at CNN Studios in Atlanta, Georgia, United States on June 27, 2024. (Photo by Kyle Mazza/Anadolu via Getty Images)

President Joe Biden and Former President Donald Trump during a Presidential Debate at CNN Studios in Atlanta on June 27. (Kyle Mazza/Anadolu via Getty Images) (Anadolu via Getty Images)

Powerful lawmakers with a direct say over industry concerns also often received donations, whether or not they face contested races.

Democratic Senator Maria Cantwell received donations from numerous executives, even as she is expected to cruise to reelection in Washington state. Cantwell is the chair of the Senate’s influential Commerce Committee.

Likewise for Republican Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. She shows up on numerous executive donation lists as she runs in what is widely expected to be a safe seat for Republicans.

The CEOs also gave over $350,000 to a variety of issue-specific groups mostly related to the sector where they do business.

Oil executives often gave to the American Petroleum Institute, which represents their interests in Washington, as just one example.

Nikki Haley, Tim Scott, and Chris Christie also received support from four members of this elite group before Trump defeated them in the primary season.

Ben Werschkul is Washington correspondent for Yahoo Finance.

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