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AT&T needs to uphold its promise to suspend contributions to candidates who refused to certify the 2020 election results or who have publicly demonstrated their support for doing so. (Photo: Flickr/cc)

Our Democracy Is in Danger and AT&T Is to Blame

AT&T is the number one contributor to extremist legislators introducing dangerous laws that silence us and keep us from the polls.

AT&T, one of Dallas' leading businesses, has built its reputation around serving the community and connecting family and friends. Yet on May 19, as shareholders and company leaders gathered virtually for its Annual Meeting of Stockholders, local and national activists joined together to call the company out for contradicting its own values and undermining our democracy.

As one of Texas' major companies and biggest employers, and as a company whose purpose is to connect Americans, we cannot let them disconnect us from the democracy that exists to serve the will of the people.

AT&T claims to support civic participation and racial justice through grandiose statements ("Corporate America cannot sit this one out," and "AT&T Supports Advancing Equal Justice Reforms") and shareholder resolutions, while at the same time AT&T is the number one contributor to extremist legislators introducing dangerous laws that silence us and keep us from the polls.

These lawmakers are fighting to keep structural racism, infringing upon civil rights and disenfranchising voters in hopes to divide and distract us while they block popular legislation including democracy reform and policies that will make our voices stronger. Millions of people, especially in Black and Brown communities, are blocked from exercising their constitutional rights because of restrictions on voting rights and the corroding influence of corporate money in politics.

In the Texas primary elections in March, over 24,000 mail-in ballots were rejected throughout the state, far more rejections than previous years. Voting rights activists and local elected officials say this was due to the introduction of the SB1 bill that imposed new identification requirements, silencing many eligible voters.

The future of our democracy can not and should not be in the hands of corporations and politicians who want to take us back to policies reminiscent of the Jim Crow era.

But AT&T, its CEO John Stankey, and its head of Executive and Legislative Affairs, Sr. Executive Vice President Ed Gillespie, are helping these politicians advance their anti democratic agendas by providing financial support to their campaigns.

While AT&T was donating to their campaigns, state lawmakers were pushing for (and successfully passed) dozens of anti-voting and anti-protest laws across the county since 2021. AT&T was also one of the first companies to break their commitment to ending financial contributions to the members of Congress who voted against certifying the 2020 election results.

In public statements, annual reports and filings with the SEC, AT&T pledged to advance equal justice reforms. Yet this year its Board or Directors rejected a shareholder resolution that calls on company executives to explain actions that aren't aligned with its commitment to values including gender equality and dedication to "overcoming systemic barriers and ensuring civil rights for all people." The company has contributed to politicians that pushed new voter suppression laws through, and lobbied for legislation that creates criminal penalties for peaceful protesters.

AT&T and its leadership, especially CEO John Stankey and Sr. Executive Vice President Ed Gillespie, should publicly recommit to supporting policies that expand access to the ballot box and make it easier for eligible voters to participate in our elections. AT&T needs to uphold its promise to suspend contributions to candidates who refused to certify the 2020 election results or who have publicly demonstrated their support for doing so. It also needs to stop lobbying for or giving money to state legislators who sponsor anti-protest bills. 

As one of Texas' major companies and biggest employers, and as a company whose purpose is to connect Americans, we cannot let them disconnect us from the democracy that exists to serve the will of the people. AT&T, hear the clarity of this call: help us restore and protect our freedom to vote. Together, we can take a step forward to achieving a democracy that is truly representative and responsive to the American people.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
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Minister Dominique Alexander

Minister Dominique Alexander is President and CEO, Next Generation Action Network

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Folabi Olagbaju

Folabi Olagbaju is Greenpeace USA Democracy Campaign Director.

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