Watchdog says AT&T gave over $100K to Abbott, GOP lawmakers after vowing to support voting rights

A left-leaning political watchdog group is calling on AT&T to hold firm in its commitment to support the expansion of voting rights after the company contributed thousands of dollars to Texas Republicans who oppose such measures.

Accountable.US found in a review of campaign finance records shared exclusively with The Hill that AT&T-affiliated PACs in June alone donated at least $312,000 to campaigns of Texas state lawmakers, including a $100,000 donation to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) the same day he called for a special legislative session to pass a widely condemned elections bill. 

The contributions, listed in AT&T Texas PAC’s July report filed with the Texas Ethics Commission, included thousands of dollars to Texas state GOP Sens. Kelly Hancock and Robert Lee Nichols, who both backed a sweeping elections bill that Democrats and voting rights groups have said would make it exponentially more difficult for certain groups of voters, including minorities and people with disabilities, to cast their ballots. 

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The Texas-based telecommunications company also reportedly gave Abbott a $100,000 contribution on June 22, the same day he called for a special session to pass Republican-backed voting restrictions. 

The GOP-led state Senate passed an elections bill Tuesday, a day after Democrats in the state House fled to Washington, D.C., to block consideration of the bill by denying Republicans the quorum necessary for a special legislative session. 

The reported contributions from AT&T come after CEO John Stankey said in April amid a wave of voting restrictions being proposed in GOP legislatures that the company believes “the right to vote is sacred and we support voting laws that make it easier for more Americans to vote in free, fair and secure elections.”

“We are working ... to support efforts to enhance every person’s ability to vote,” Stankey added in another April statement. 

In a Saturday letter sent to the CEO and shared with The Hill, Accountable.US said the executive’s “sentiments run totally counter to the sizable campaign support AT&T affiliated PACs are doling out to those scheming to strip fundamental voting rights from eligible voters.” 

“If AT&T truly cares about preserving access to the ballot box for all, the time is now to prove it,” Accountable.US continued. “When corporations don’t speak out when they disagree with the actions of people they helped put in power, it’s tantamount to an endorsement of their behavior.” 

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In a statement shared with The Hill, Accountable.US President Kyle Herrig said, “What’s happening in Texas is the latest shoe to drop in a widescale voter suppression scheme carried out by desperate and dishonest embracers of the Big Lie.” 

“Before any more voting barriers are erected for citizens of color and with disabilities, lawmakers must now hear from every corporation that has assured their customers, shareholders, and employees that they support democracy,” Herrig added. 

The Hill has reached out to AT&T for comment. 

The group is also calling on AT&T as well as companies such as Microsoft, Salesforce and Target to leave the U.S. Chamber of Commerce due to the business group’s opposition to Democratic-backed voting rights legislation. 

Accountable.US told The Hill it is launching billboard ads next week in each of the companies’ home cities as part of the organization's ongoing "Drop The Chamber" campaign. 

The campaign, which first launched in May, began with digital ads on Facebook, Google, LinkedIn and other sites, targeting employees of Microsoft, Target and Salesforce.

The watchdog group has since launched ads for TV and YouTube, arguing that the House-passed For the People Act is necessary to protect voters from restrictive voting measures passed in places such as Texas, Georgia and Florida.