Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has received nearly $US10,000 in campaign contributions from the head of a company at the center of a high-profile sexual discrimination case. Cintas Corporation Chairman Richard Farmer has given $US9,800 to McConnell over the past 13 years, the vast majority of which was contributed after the start of an ongoing lawsuit alleging the company engaged in a “pattern” of discrimination against female job applicants.
Federal Election Commission records show Farmer’s first donation to McConnell was made in 2001 for $US1,000. All of his other contributions were made after 2005 including $US2,600 last September and $US5,200 given on Jan. 17. McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky, is currently facing a strong campaign challenge from Kentucky Secretary of State Allison Lundergran Grimes.
The allegations against Cintas, an Ohio-based firm that creates uniforms, promotional products, and other supplies for businesses, date back to 2004 when the company was sued by a woman who accused the company of engaging “in gender discrimination in hiring.” In 2005, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission joined the case and alleged there was “a pattern of sex discrimination in hiring” at the company and that only six of the 286 sales representatives hired by Cintas in Michigan from 1999 through 2002 were women.
Cintas attempted to get the case thrown out and was initially successful. However, in January of last year, a federal appeals court ruled the company had to face the suit. In October, the Supreme Court declined to hear Cintas’ appeal. Last month, both sides faced off in Michigan federal court with lawyers for Cintas arguing, as Law360 put it, that the EEOC was attempting to begin a “massive class action representing more than 1,000 [women] who were denied positions as sales service representatives to obtain … potentially enormous punitive damages.” The federal agency countered that it could not and should not be made to identify everyone who would be part of the suit at this stage.
Other than saying the company values “diversity,” a Cintas spokeswoman declined to comment on the status of the case to Business Insider Wednesday.
“At Cintas, diversity and inclusion is an integral component of our corporate culture. We do not comment on pending litigation,” the spokeswoman said.
In addition to the $US9,800 he has given to McConnell, Farmer, who has also given to other Republican politicians and organisations, gave a total of $US8,500 to the Kentucky Republican Party. Apart from his donations to McConnell and the Kentucky GOP, the vast majority of Farmer’s other campaign contributions went to his home state of Ohio, national GOP organisations, or presidential candidates. Farmer’s immediate family has also given to McConnell.
Farmer’s son, Scott, who is the CEO of Cintas, gave McConnell a total of $US4,300 in 2007. Scott Farmer, who has donated to other Republican politicians, also gave $US2,000 to McConnell’s joint fundraising committee, The McConnell Majority Committee, that same year.
Joyce Farmer, Richard Farmer’s wife, gave a total of $US5,600 to McConnell from 2001 through 2008. Last September, Joyce Farmer gave $US2,600 to the McConnell Senate Committee 2014, a PAC that has been buying ads for McConnell in his race against Grimes. Joyce Farmer, who has made contributions to other Republican politicians, has also given $US10,000 to the Kentucky GOP.
In total, McConnell has received $US19,700 from Richard, Scott, and Joyce Farmer. His allied committees have received $US4,600 from the Farmers and the Kentucky GOP has been given $US18,500 from the family. McConnell and his committees have not received any money from the Cintas Corporation Partners PAC, which has given to both Democratic and Republican politicians.
Business Insider reached out to McConnell’s campaign Wednesday to ask whether they were aware of the sexual discrimination suit and whether, in light of the allegations, he intended to return his donations from Richard Farmer. Soon afterward, a McConnell campaign spokeswoman responded and indicated they would be providing a response by 4 p.m. ET. Business Insider has not received that response and subsequent attempts to contact the campaign have gone unanswered.
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