Companies with headquarters or major interests in Georgia are winning plaudits from progressives for criticizing that state’s new restrictive voting law, while top Republicans are apoplectic, telling corporations to butt out of partisan politics. What planet are these people living on? Corporate involvement in politics — including free-flowing money — is a time-honored American tradition. And if progressives think a few tepid, carefully crafted words of criticism constitute a sufficient corporate response to the ongoing GOP voter-suppression efforts, they’re even more naïve than they’ve let on.
Major League Baseball’s decision to yank the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta ranks as the most substantive gesture so far in the corporate world’s gestures of political correctness. Atlanta-based Coca-Cola temporarily suspended all political donations after the GOP effort to overturn the presidential election, culminating in the Jan. 6 Capitol Hill insurrection. But the company empowered Georgia state lawmakers with generous donations preceding the post-election upheaval, as did other big corporations like Delta Airlines that hoped to win tax breaks and other special treatment.
The proof of their earnestness in halting GOP voter-suppression laws won’t be in their statements of concern but rather in publicly stated refusals to donate another cent to anyone who stands in the way of democracy. So far, they haven’t been willing to go down that road.
“Corporate leaders cannot credibly claim to love America while also giving contributions to lawmakers who are supporting thinly veiled attempts to suppress the vote, especially among people of color,” Public Citizen’s executive vice president, Lisa Gilbert, said in a statement to The Hill. “The only acceptable action for corporations to take is to stop giving to supporters of these bills, forever.”
Despite efforts by Republican defenders to minimize the impact of Georgia’s new restrictions, there’s no disputing the result: They are trying to deter minority, poor and elderly voters from going to the polls or mailing in ballots if it means more votes for Democrats. We know this is their plan because top GOP leaders have stated it clearly since relaxed mail-in and absentee voting regulations contributed to the GOP’s loss of the White House and Senate in the 2020 election.
“If Republicans don’t challenge and change the U.S. election system, there will never be another Republican president elected again.” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, stated in early November.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell suddenly wants to dictate the terms by which corporations can influence politics, telling companies to “stay out of politics.” That’s the Senate leader who warmly embraced the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling declaring that corporations are people and have a right to use their money for political influence.