Company donations to GOP beneath the microscope

Several large corporations in Georgia have criticized the state’s controversial new election restrictions signed by GOP Governor Brian Kemp last week.

However, some of these companies are silent about whether they will continue to make donations to Kemp and other Georgia Republicans who support the law.

CNBC reached out to six companies to ask if they would continue to make corporate donations to Georgian politicians who support the new law. Three answered. One of them, Coca-Cola, pointed to its decision to stop all political donations after the January 6 riot on Capitol Hill.

The new law creates some hurdles for postal voting and includes greater legislative control over the conduct of elections. Companies like Delta attacked the law because it was too restrictive.

Various interest groups have said the bill specifically affects black voters, who were instrumental in the Democrats’ surprise victories in two US Senate elections earlier this year and last year’s presidential election.

There is even talk of an idea supported by President Joe Biden to move this year’s Major League Baseball All Star Game out of Atlanta.

Kemp and other Georgia Republicans have defended the law and dismissed corporate concerns.

Delta, headquartered in Atlanta, spoke out against the law in a memo from CEO Ed Bastian on Wednesday. The company has historically supported Kemp and several sponsors of the law through its Political Action Committee. As of 2018, the PAC has given over $ 25,000 to Kemp and several GOP lawmakers.

A Delta spokeswoman wouldn’t say whether the company would stop donating to Kemp and the other supporters of the law.

“With regard to DeltaPAC and our political contributions, we have solid procedures in place for reviewing candidates prior to each submission to ensure they are in line with both Delta’s position on aerospace and business priority issues and our values,” said Lisa Hanna, the Delta spokesperson. said in an email. “Past contributions do not mean that DeltaPAC will contribute to a candidate in the future.”

The Delta representative also said that “due to the COVID-19 pandemic, no individual donations have been made to Georgia State House or Senate candidates since prior to 2020”.

Critics are calling for companies like Delta to be more accountable.

“Today you have to balance your political spending with your rhetoric,” said Bruce Freed, president of the bipartisan Center for Political Accountability, which tracks corporate money in politics. “You have passed the point of no return, it’s no longer just for access or free,” he noted, referring to previous calls to boycott some Georgia-based companies.

“They are now realizing that there is such a deep reaction from consumers and the general public that it affects not only their reputation but also their bottom line,” explained Freed, explaining how companies are now viewing the public response to their corporate donations.

For Coca-Cola, it was about sticking to a policy it introduced after the deadly pro-Trump uprising at the Capitol. James Quincey, CEO of Coca-Cola, called Georgia law “unacceptable” in an interview with CNBC on Wednesday. In a statement on Thursday, Quincey added that the company’s “focus is now on supporting federal legislation protecting access to voting and addressing the repression of voters across the country.”

“We suspended all political donations in January, and this hiatus continues,” said Ann Moore, a Coca-Cola spokeswoman. Moore said the suspension of the company’s contributions affects state-level candidates, not just federal candidates.

As of 2018, Coca-Cola has donated more than $ 25,000 to sponsors of the Georgia Voting Restrictions Act. That total includes over $ 10,000 for Kemp’s gubernatorial campaigns between 2018 and 2020.

“We haven’t set a schedule, but we’re still thinking about how to use these resources,” said Moore when asked if the beverage giant had any plans to resume the posts.

Home Depot, also headquartered in Atlanta, recently said in response to Georgia’s electoral law that it would work to ensure its employees across the country have the resources and information to vote.

However, the company wouldn’t say whether it would continue to support lawmakers who support the law.

“Our employee-funded PAC supports candidates on both sides of the aisle advocating for business and retail-friendly positions that create jobs and economic growth,” said Sara Gorman, a Home Depot spokeswoman. “As always, future donations will be assessed based on a number of factors.”

Home Depot has given Kemp and the lawmakers who sponsored the bill at least $ 30,000.

AT&T is based in Texas but gave more than $ 70,000 to Kemp’s campaign and Georgia Bill sponsors. A video on Twitter shows the Black Voters Matter group protesting outside AT&T headquarters on Monday.

AT&T CEO John Stankey told CNBC in a statement:

“We understand that electoral laws are complicated, not our company’s expertise and ultimately the responsibility of elected officials. However, as a company, we have a responsibility to get involved. This is why we work with other companies through groups like the company around the table in support of efforts to improve each person’s ability to choose. “

“That way, the right knowledge and expertise can be used to make a difference on this fundamental and critical issue,” added Stankey.

UPS and Southern Company Gas, two Georgia-based companies that have donated through their PAC to either various sponsors of the bill or to Kemp’s campaign, did not respond to a request for comment.

UPS previously said it believes “electoral laws and statutes should make it easier, not harder, for Americans to exercise their voting rights.” The invoice was not addressed directly.

After the January 6 uprising, UPS announced that it would suspend all PAC contributions for the time being.

Read the full statement from John Stankey, CEO of AT&T, below:

“We believe that the right to vote is sacred, and we support electoral laws that make it easier for more Americans to vote in free, fair, and safe elections.

We understand that electoral laws are complicated, not our company’s expertise and ultimately the responsibility of elected officials. But as a company, we have a responsibility to get involved. That’s why we partner with other companies through groups like the Business Roundtable to support efforts to improve each person’s electoral skills. In this way, the right knowledge and expertise can be used to make a difference on this fundamental and critical issue.

We are an active member of the BRT and fully support its policy statement on the right to vote. Easily accessible and secure voting is not only a valuable right and responsibility, but also the best way to ensure that everyone’s voice is heard. “

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