Fidelity Investments Inc., a financial service company employed by the University of California, donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to thirty-one Republican congressmen who subsequently objected to the Jan. 6 electoral vote on the Presidency. Uncovered by the Majority Action organization, Fidelity was found to be a part of a $1.03 million political action committee (PAC) composed of many other corporate interests supporting the politicians.
The contributions were allotted to support Republican lawmakers like Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri, who pledged to go forward with his objection to the Jan. 6 electoral college results in Pennsylvania along with other Republicans like Ted Cruz, Cindy Hyde-Smith, Roger Marshall, John Kennedy, and Tommy Tuberville. Some politicians who had planned to support the objection during the electoral count changed their minds in the wake of the Capitol Hill Riots, and Joseph Biden was confirmed President-Elect at 3:40 a.m. EST.
Fidelity’s spokesman Vin Loporchio issued a statement affirming that the firm “constantly evaluates” donors through its PAC and made no direct statements about the riots that occurred as a result of the objectors and Trump’s call-to-action.
Although neither the UC nor UC San Diego made statements regarding Fidelity financial contributions to the objectors, both institutions have denounced the Capitol Hill riots. UCSD Chancellor Pradeep Khosla released a statement on Jan. 6 to the UCSD community condemning the violence.
“While peaceful protests are a mainstay of our country’s history, there is no place in a democracy for what transpired,” Khosla wrote. “Such lawless behavior is unacceptable and weakens the core of our democracy. Every leader has a responsibility to oppose these events and to discourage such behavior.”
Although Fidelity stands by their donations, students like Nika Shlopov, a freshman at Eleanor Roosevelt College, believe that the UC will still not condemn the company due to pre-existing financial interests. She acknowledges that public organizations like the UC have to maintain these business relations and cannot afford to be hyper-focused on some of the optics.
“It is a hard decision to just withdraw everytime a business makes choices you don’t agree with,” Shlopov said in an interview with The UCSD Guardian. “But then again, I would not want to associate my university with companies that are donating egregious amounts of money to [GOP representatives] who are like, ‘Argh the election is a fraud!’ I think that if you do confront UCSD about it, you’ll get something along the lines of ‘Yes, we may be getting money from places we do not support, but we will be using that money for something worthy.’”
UCSD student opposition to similar affiliations have come up before, such as when student protestors blocked progress toward the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) atop Mauna Kea construction in 2014, claiming the observatories are culturally and environmentally invasive.
To help UC employees with supplemental retirement benefits, the University of California System partnered with Fidelity Investments Inc. to create the UC Retirement Savings Program. The programs are comprised of the Tax-Deferred 403(b) Plan, the 457(b) Deferred Compensation Plan and the Defined Contribution Plan. These accounts allow professors and employees at public universities to contribute a portion of their salary to a retirement plan while deferring taxes.
“I think that they should condemn Fidelity, but at this point in time, it doesn’t make me see the UC Board of Regents or the UC as a whole in a negative light,” Benjamin Garfinkel, a sophomore at Earl Warren College said in an interview with The Guardian.“Going forward, is the UC going to do a better job vetting the companies that they either dictate work to or receive services from? I think that there are a lot of corporations out there that have either done things that are unjust or contributed to things that are unjust.”
Although Fidelity has not taken action on their previous donations, other financial managers on the PAC like the State Street firm suspended donations to Republicans objecting to the certification of President Biden.
“The culpability for this untenable challenge to our Constitution and American values goes beyond the criminals that attacked our Capitol, and falls to a number of our elected leaders as well who, in effect, perpetuated the lies and untruths about the outcome of the 2020 presidential election,” State Street said in a statement from its website.
Eli Kasargod-Staub, co-founder of Majority Action, said in an interview with Bloomberg news that there ought to be actions taken after the results of the Capitol Hill riots. In order to prevent further violence and unrest, there needs to be a popular consensus on what donations and support is considered “acceptable or not.”
“We’re looking for asset managers to fundamentally cease donations to those who voted against the acceptance of election results,” said Kasargod-Staub. “We have a minority set of politicians who attempted to overthrow the election results. The most important thing to understand immediately from any company is, ‘Do they think that’s acceptable or not?’”
The UC System Media Relations Department did not respond to The Guardian’s inquiry on Fidelity’s contributions. The UC System and UCSD has not made public any plans to alter its relationship with Fidelity.
Artwork courtesy of Ava Bayley for The UCSD Guardian.