Earlier this week Democrats officially made Joe Biden the party’s candidate for President, however most local companies haven’t contributed much to presidential candidates this election cycle.
Instead, several Williamson County public companies are focused on Tennessee’s senate race.
Political action committees and individuals connected to Williamson County’s public companies have donated more than $800,000 to candidates running for federal offices during the 2020 election cycle.
About 80% of that money went to Republican candidates, and the rest went to Democrats, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.
Executives and Political Action Committees connected to Acadia Healthcare and CoreCivic made by far the biggest contributions. Acadia-connected donors gave more than $300,000 to candidates, and donors connected to CoreCivic gave more than $200,000 during 2019 and 2020. Contributions from both companies heavily favored Republicans.
With well over two months before the U.S. general election, contributions could still rise. Donors connected to local, public companies contributed $1.2 million in the 2018 election cycle and $1.4 million in 2016.
Bill Hagerty, a Tennessee Republican running for the U.S. Senate, was the top recipient of donations connected to five of Williamson County’s 14 public companies in 2019 and 2020. Acadia and CoreCivic-connected donors, who gave about $30,000 each, were among the top 10 contributors to Hagerty’s campaign.
Overall, donors connected to Williamson County public companies gave close to $100,000 to the Hagerty Campaign. Interestingly, only the home decor retailer Kirkland’s donated to the campaign of his primary opponent Manny Sethi, who lost that race earlier this month.
Williamson County’s public companies also contributed to statewide causes and candidates, but at much lower levels. For the most part, companies donated to political action committees representing their interests at the state level.
A few other donations from Williamson County residents also stood out for the 2019-2020 federal election cycle.
- Willis Johnson—a man Bloomberg dubbed a “Junkyard Billionaire”—and his wife Reba Johnson donated more than $700,000 to Republican causes.
- Barney Byrd, the CEO of the private invest firm Gen Cap America, gave more than $340,000 to Republican causes.
- Troy Mizell, CEO of the Middle Tennessee medical materials supplier AvKARE, and his wife Jody Mizell donated $337,000 to Republican causes.
- Joey Jacobs, who was recently appointed CEO of the Franklin health care company Quorum and was previously CEO of Acadia, contributed about $179,000 to Republican causes. All of his current campaign contributions pre-date his appointment as Quorum CEO, and he usually listed Acadia as his employer.
- Andy Puzder, who was previously the CEO of the Franklin based CKE Restaurants, donated $146,000 to Republican causes. Puzder retired in 2017 after he was nominated to be the secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor, but failed to receive enough votes.
- Cordia Harrington, the CEO of Nashville based The Bakery Companies, donated $100,000 to a conservative political action committee.
- Mason Revelette, the CEO of The Rutledge in Cool Springs as well as Jonathon’s Grill, gave more than $88,000 to Republican causes.
- Orrin Ingram, CEO of Nashville’s Ingram Industries, gave more than $47,000 to Republican causes.
- Jeff Dahlgren, the CEO of the manufacturing company Airtech, gave $35,000 to a Republican committee.
- Michael Cartwright, the chairman and former CEO of American Addiction Centers, donated over $35,000 to Democrats, making him the largest Democratic donor in the county.
It’s important to note that companies themselves don’t donate directly to candidates in federal races. Instead, they can set up political action committees that then give to candidates. Company employees can also donate directly to candidates.
The Center for Responsive Politics calculates campaign contributions connected to companies by adding up donations from associated PACs and donations by employees worth more than $200.
A large portion of individual donations from employees often comes from top executives. For example, executives at CoreCivic and Delek accounted for about half of the individual donations associated with those companies in 2019 and 2020.
Cartwright’s $35,000 contribution accounted for more than 90% of individual donations connected to the company this election cycle.
Of course, large companies have many employees that donate based on their own personal views. In its methodology section, the Center for Responsive Politics notes that it’s impossible to know the motivation behind donations, but argues that the patterns of donations are still important to track.