Take the case of Pfizer (PFE), Merck (MRK), and Johnson & Johnson (JNJ). Each company sells contraceptive products. Pfizer markets Depo-Provera, Merck sells Nexplanon, and J&J markets Ortho-Novum.
But last year, all three drug makers donated large sums to the Republican State Leadership Committee, a political group that helps conservatives gain control of state legislatures. Those contributions ranged from around $24,000 by Merck to $325,000 by Pfizer, with J&J giving roughly $52,000, according to Political MoneyLine data.
Eventually, the RSLC helped elect, directly and indirectly, numerous candidates in Alabama, Georgia, and Missouri. In each state, the legislatures have passed bills that greatly restrict abortion. And many lawmakers who oppose abortion also object to contraception.
“There’s really no daylight between being anti-abortion and being anti-birth control, because an attack on abortion is really an attack on women’s health writ large,” said Michelle Kuppersmith, director of Equity Forward, an advocacy group that champions women’s reproductive rights….
For this reason, it would seem the companies acted against their own financial interests, according to Bruce Freed, who heads the Center for Political Accountability, a nonprofit group that studies corporate donations. What he calls “under-the-radar” donations are often not known to shareholders, consumers, and employees, but can quickly go viral in a “polarized and hyper-charged” political environment.
“Companies give to third-party groups and don’t always pay attention to how their money is used,” Freed explained. “However, they can be associated with consequences that are controversial or conflict with their core values, positions, product lines, and business strategies.”