Jul 22, 2021
Several of the same corporations and law firms that publicly condemned the passage of Georgia's voter suppression law in March also contributed thousands of dollars this year to state lawmakers and officials who supported the legislation, according to a new analysis of campaign finance disclosures, first reported on Thursday by the Washington Post.
"Many of the most powerful institutions in our society--global corporations and elite law firms--have made vague statements about supporting voting rights, but these statements are meaningless if these entities continue to fund the politicians behind restrictive voter legislation," said Daniel Jones, president of Advance Democracy, the nonprofit research group behind the analysis.
Georgia's sweeping attack on voting rights, signed into law by Republican Gov. Brian Kemp on March 25, restricts access to the ballot in numerous ways, including by limiting early and absentee voting, reducing the number of ballot drop boxes, and criminalizing those who attempt to provide food and water to voters who are often forced to wait in line for hours on end.
Many corporations, in an attempt to demonstrate their purported commitment to political democracy, responded by denouncing the law.
As the Post reported:
Chief executives of Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines and Coca-Cola both called the measure "unacceptable," following an outcry from Black Lives Matter, the national community-organizing group, which urged big business to speak out more strongly against the law. In the furor, Major League Baseball moved its summer All-Star Game out of the state.
In April, hundreds of major companies and corporate leaders released a statement under the heading, "We Stand for Democracy," calling voting the "lifeblood of our democracy."
The statement stopped short of promising to end donations to politicians who advanced the voting restrictions. Nonetheless, many of the corporations that aired concerns have since withheld donations to supporters of the legislation, despite previously helping to finance them. Neither Delta nor Coca-Cola, for instance, has contributed to Georgia lawmakers who voted for the restrictive voting law, according to Advance Democracy's analysis of filings made public by mid-July.
Several other companies that expressed dismay about Georgia's restrictive voting law, however, have continued shelling out money to some of its key architects and backers.
"Efforts to limit or impede access to this vital constitutional right for any citizen are not consistent with our values," Comcast said in response to the bill's passage.
Three months later, "on June 30, the telecommunications giant contributed $2,500 to Georgia's attorney general, Chris Carr, who has vigorously defended the law," the Post noted.
Comcast was one of multiple businesses that portrayed themselves as opponents of the GOP's voter suppression onslaught only to give more than $20,000 collectively between April and June of this year to Georgia politicians who voted for or publicly endorsed the state's restrictive voting law.
The law firm Troutman Pepper issued its own statement in early April that said: "We support voting rights for all Americans, oppose any undue and discriminatory restrictions to the ballot box, and stand firmly with those who support full and fair access to the voting process in Georgia and across the country."
Then, on April 14, the same day it jointly released the "We Stand for Democracy" statement, the firm donated to one of the lawmakers who voted to undermine Georgians' voting rights.
McGuireWoods, a Richmond-based law firm and signatory to the "We Stand for Democracy" statement, also contributed $250 on April 14 to a Georgia lawmaker who approved the state's latest voter suppression measures.
According to the Post, "The firm went on to contribute to at least four other backers of the law, including $2,800 to state Sen. Jeff Mullis (R), one of its co-sponsors."
The newspaper noted that the decision by some companies to silently continue funding Georgia Republicans who voted for or defended legislation they vocally claimed to oppose "mirrors dynamics at the federal level."
Several major corporations that pledged to pause or reevaluate political spending in the wake of the January 6 insurrection have quietly resumed donating to congressional Republicans, including the roughly 140 lawmakers who--just hours after the violent right-wing riot they helped provoke was contained--voted against certifying President Joe Biden's Electoral College victory.
In addition to sparking a deadly coup attempt, former President Donald Trump's "big lie" that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from him has fueled the GOP's ongoing nationwide assault on the franchise. Between January and mid-July, right-wing lawmakers in 49 states introduced more than 400 bills that would make it harder for millions of Americans, especially people of color and other Democratic-leaning constituencies, to vote, or would empower election officials to overturn the will of voters.
Since the beginning of this year, Republican-controlled legislatures--invoking the supposed need to shore up so-called "election integrity"--have enacted a combined total of 30 voter suppression laws in 18 states, including Georgia.
Last month, Biden's Justice Department filed a lawsuit accusing Georgia of discriminating against Black voters with its new law. The president, however, has so far refused to advocate for repealing the Senate's 60-vote filibuster rule that stands in the way of enacting voter protections at the federal level.
Although Biden criticized Republican state lawmakers for disenfranchising voters during a speech two weeks ago, he did not pressure Democratic senators to abolish, or even reform, the filibuster--even after the upper chamber's GOP minority deployed the anti-democratic tool last month to block debate on S. 1, the For the People Act.
The Brennan Center for Justice has shown that the For the People Act, a sweeping set of pro-democracy reforms, would nullify virtually all of the GOP's state-level attacks on voting rights. But the House-passed bill, which is popular among voters across party lines, remains in peril ahead of next month's congressional recess.
In addition to increasing ballot access nationwide and curbing the corrupting influence of big money in politics, S. 1 would require states to adopt independent redistricting commissions to combat partisan gerrymandering.
As The Daily Poster's Walker Bragman warned on Tuesday, "Democrats are facing a fast-approaching deadline that could decide the party's political fate for the next decade."
The U.S. Census Bureau is expected to release 2020 census data by August 16, after which state governments can begin redrawing their legislative and congressional districts.
"If Democrats want to have their best shot at preventing Republicans from redrawing red states' congressional districts in a way that could lock in a GOP House majority for a decade," Bragman wrote, "they need to tweak and pass the For the People Act, their signature voting rights and democracy reform legislation, before that date."
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