Press: Corporate America defies the GOP

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)
Greg Nash

For those of us in the media, one reason covering politics is both so much fun and so frustrating is the many twists and turns that politicians make on issues, with little concern for being branded as hypocrites.

Just when you thought you knew where Republicans stood on deficit spending, for example, everything changed. They used to be against it. Then, under former President Trump, they didn’t care. Now, under President Biden, they’re against it again.

But, of all the flip-flops we’ve seen Republicans make, none takes your breath away more than their U-turn on the role of corporations in politics. They used to welcome it — as long as corporations were writing big checks to Republican candidates. But once corporations took a stand against voter suppression, they quickly became all against it.

We remember the glee with which Republicans cheered the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010. Yes, Republicans argued, just like individuals, big businesses had every right to make unlimited campaign contributions because, as GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney famously declared in August 2011: “Corporations are people, my friends.”

They expressed the same glee in June 2014 when the craft store chain Hobby Lobby won a ruling from the Supreme Court allowing it to deny insurance coverage for contraception as part of its health care plan for female employees.

That was the official Republican Party mantra: Corporations are people. You can make political contributions. You can express your opinion. You can take stands on political issues. We welcome your involvement in politics.

At least, that was the Republican Party line, until this month — when American corporations dared take a stand Republicans didn’t like. Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines and Coca-Cola came out in opposition to Georgia’s new voting law, which makes it more difficult for people, especially in minority communities, to vote. And Major League Baseball yanked the All-Star game from Atlanta to Denver.

Oh, the howls of outrage! Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said it was “quite stupid” for corporations to weigh in on such a controversial issue and warned they’d face “serious consequences if they become a vehicle for far-left mobs.” Immediately, several Republican senators announced legislation to remove MLB’s federal antitrust exemption.

Overnight, the official Republican Party mantra on corporations changed to: We welcome your involvement in politics, as long as you agree with us that the 2020 election was stolen and you support draconian new voting laws. Of course, we’ll still gladly take your money, but otherwise — Shut up!

But, to their credit, corporate America has not backed down. Despite the warnings from McConnell and other leading Republicans, more than 100 corporate executives joined a Zoom call on Saturday, April 10, to discuss how to push back, not only against what happened in Georgia, but against some 250 voter suppression laws introduced, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, in 43 states. As reported by The Washington Post, business leaders agreed on two points: denying political contributions to politicians who voted for restrictive voting laws; and delaying new investments in states that adopt such measures.

Simply by joining that call, business leaders were sending a strong, double-barreled message to the Republican Party. One, we’re involved in politics to stay. Two, you can’t shut us up. Especially not on a sacred issue like voting rights. This is not about politics. This is about democracy. Making it easier, not harder, for people to vote is a goal that all Americans should support — and a goal we will use our corporate power to help deliver.

Press is host of “The Bill Press Pod.” He is author of “From the Left: A Life in the Crossfire.”

Corrected from an earlier version.

Tags Citizens United v. FEC corporate political activism Donald Trump Georgia voting law Joe Biden Mitch McConnell Mitt Romney Voter suppression

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