Corporate America Has Spent $50 Million on State Lawmakers Who Support Limiting Voter Access

The AT&T Communications Inc. corporate headquarters building is seen March 6, 2006 in San Antonio, Texas. AT&T announced plans to acquire BellSouth in a deal valued at approximately $67 billion.
The AT&T Communications Inc. corporate headquarters building is seen March 6, 2006 in San Antonio, Texas. AT&T announced plans to acquire BellSouth in a deal valued at approximately $67 billion.
Photo: Toby Jorrin/Getty Images (Getty Images)

Some of America’s biggest and most profitable corporations have given more than $50 million to state lawmakers who have supported legislation that makes it harder for people to vote, according to Washington-based government watchdog group Public Citizen.

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The group’s accounting dates back to 2015, with AT&T being the biggest contributor at $811,000. Comcast gave $440,000, UnitedHealth Group $411,000, Walmart $377,000, State Farm $315,00, and Pfizer $308,000. More than 60 companies have given at least $100,000.

This cash may not have been given to lawmakers to suppress Black voters, but politicians live and die on donations, so their anti-democratic efforts are being financed indirectly. Attention has been drawn to financial giving since the January 6 insurrection attempt in Washington, D.C. In its aftermath, 123 corporations and trade associations suspended political giving to 147 members of Congress who voted against certifying the presidential election results.

Here are some more findings from the report:

Among its findings:

—Companies donated at least $50 million to lawmakers who supported voting restrictions, including $22 million in the 2020 campaign cycle.

—At least 81 Fortune 100 companies have given a combined total of $7.7 million to supporters of the restrictions.

—Nearly half of all Fortune 500 companies donated a combined total of $12.8 million to supporters of the restrictions.

—About three-quarters of the companies that changed their donation policies after the U.S. Capitol attack have also given to lawmakers who supported voting rights restrictions.

—More than 60 companies have given at least $100,000 to lawmakers who supported the restrictions.

—Separately, industry groups and trade associations contributed an additional $36 million to the lawmakers, $16 million of which was given during the 2020 cycle.

At the state level, however, the cash keeps coming in. Republican lawmakers—and they are pretty much all Republicans—are pushing 250 bills that are making it harder to vote in the 2022 election cycle. Georgia has already passed its restrictive voter laws, and Texas isn’t too far behind; even Michigan is making a go at it.

The justification for these bills is voter fraud—which no one can prove exists, of course. Some of the restrictions being pushed at the state level include making it a crime to give food and water to people waiting in line to vote, shortening voter periods and prohibiting voting on Sundays.

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The Associated Press reached out to some of the corporations that gave money to these democracy-busting Republicans. Here are some of the responses:

“We understand that election laws are complicated, not our company’s expertise and ultimately the responsibility of elected officials. But, as a company, we have a responsibility to engage,” AT&T CEO John Stankey said in a statement.

Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg said in a statement, “We strongly oppose the passage of any legislation or the adoption of any measure that would make it harder” to vote. But he stopped short of pledging any specific action.

Comcast said in a statement that “efforts to limit or impede access to this vital constitutional right for any citizen are not consistent with our values.” The company would not comment on whether it would evaluate its giving to lawmakers who support the measures.

Altria, the parent company of Philip Morris, said in a statement that “every eligible voter should be able to exercise their right to vote” and pledged to monitor lawmakers’ “alignment with our political contribution guiding principles when making future contribution decisions.”

Other companies listed in the report declined to comment, or did not respond to inquiries from The Associated Press.

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Delta and Coca-Cola caught heat for not speaking out against Georgia’s voter suppression bills but later took stronger stances. MLB moved its All-Star Game out of Georgia in protest of its new voter laws.

Terrell Jermaine Starr is a senior reporter at The Root. He is currently writing a book proposal that analyzes US-Russia relations from a black perspective.

DISCUSSION

The worst part about this is that they know they can but the black square up on social media and then still give money to lawmakers who try and suppress our votes.  What can we do? Boycott, sure but then what?  This is exhausting.