McConnell tells CEOs critical of voting restrictions to ‘stay out of politics’
Republicans’ standing as the party of corporate America appears to be under threat after Mitch McConnell, the minority leader in the Senate, told chief executives critical of voting restrictions to “stay out of politics”.
Last week Coca-Cola, Delta and dozens of other companies condemned a new election law in Georgia while Major League Baseball announced it would move the All-Star Game from the state in protest.
“I found it completely discouraging to find a bunch of corporate CEOs getting in the middle of politics,” McConnell told a press conference in his home state of Kentucky on Monday. “My advice to the corporate CEOs of America is to stay out of politics. Don’t pick sides in these big fights.”
He warned companies against giving into advocacy campaigns. “It’s jaw-dropping to see powerful American institutions not just permit themselves to be bullied, but join in the bullying themselves,” he said.
McConnell also issued a written statement that claimed Georgia’s new law has been portrayed unfairly and bemoaned “a coordinated campaign by powerful and wealthy people to mislead and bully the American people”.
Railing against the “Outrage-Industrial Complex”, the senator went on: “Americans do not need or want big business to amplify disinformation or react to every manufactured controversy with frantic leftwing signaling.
“From election law to environmentalism to radical social agendas to the second amendment, parts of the private sector keep dabbling in behaving like a woke parallel government. Corporations will invite serious consequences if they become a vehicle for far-left mobs to hijack our country from outside the constitutional order.”
He did not elaborate on the warning, but the comments imply a significant rupture after decades in which big business tended to favour Republicans and give them the lion’s share of campaign contributions, enjoying the benefits of low taxes and limited government regulation.
Now, however, companies face greater pressure to show they are socially responsible actors and take stand on political issues. The new restrictions in Georgia and elsewhere are widely expected to have a disproportionate impact on voters of colour.
The White House denied McConnell’s claim of a coordinated campaign to mislead the public. The press secretary, Jen Psaki, said: “We’ve not asked corporations to specific actions; that’s not our focus here.
“Our focus is on continuing to convey that it’s important that voting is easier, not harder, that when there are laws in place that make it harder, we certainly express an opposition to those laws.”
Former president Donald Trump spent months falsely claiming that his 2020 election defeat was the result of widespread voter fraud. He failed in dozens of court challenges and his own attorney general, William Barr, reported no significant irregularities.
Even so, legislators in 47 states this year have introduced 361 bills imposing new restrictions on voting, according to the Brennan Center for Justice. Georgia, which Joe Biden won narrowly, will strengthen identification requirements for absentee ballots and make it a crime to offer food or water to voters in a queue.
Coca-Cola and Delta Air Lines, both major employers in Georgia, were condemned by activists for remaining silent on the issue there but eventually yielded. Ed Bastian, the chief executive of Delta, said: “The entire rationale for this bill was based on a lie: that there was widespread voter fraud in Georgia in the 2020 election.”
James Quincey, the head of Coca-Cola, described the law as “unacceptable” and a “step backwards”.
Some Republicans have suggested embracing a new identity as a party of the working class. Trump issued an angry email statement on Saturday denouncing “WOKE CANCEL CULTURE” and calling for a boycott of Major League Baseball, Coca-Cola, Delta and other companies.
“Never submit, never give up!” he wrote. “The Radical Left will destroy our Country if we let them. We will not become a Socialist Nation. Happy Easter!”
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