Last week, after major corporations headquartered in Georgia publicly condemned the passage of a new law restricting ballot access in the state, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell cautioned major firms to tread lightly in their political speech, after spending the last decade of his career encouraging the exact opposite. “My warning to corporate America is to stay out of politics,” he said, adapting Michael Jordan’s famous bit of political humor for the Peach State: “Republicans drink Coca-Cola, too.”
Many big corporations — though happy to accept McConnell’s caveat that he “wasn’t talking about political contributions” — don’t appear to be heeding his warning. According to the Washington Post, CEOs and corporate leaders from over 100 companies joined a conference call on Saturday to talk “about potential ways to show they opposed the legislation, including by halting donations to politicians who support the bills and even delaying investments in states that pass the restrictive measures.” Executives from Delta, American, United, Starbucks, Target, and LinkedIn, as well as Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Black, were reportedly on the call. And while the conversation involved rethinking financial contributions in states that limited voting access, that did not apply to personal choices: Several of the business leaders were calling in from Augusta, where they were attending the Masters golf tournament.
The call is an escalation of what McConnell has dramatically described as a “coordinated campaign by powerful and wealthy people to mislead and bully the American people,” in response to Republican-led voting restrictions. According to a count by the Brennan Center for Justice, five laws tightening ballot access have been passed since the election, in addition to 55 more bills designed to limit voting proposed in 24 states.
McConnell isn’t the only party leader to see his advice to corporate America ignored. Last week, Donald Trump called for his supporters to boycott Delta, Citigroup, UPS, and Coca-Cola after they criticized the new Georgia law, which adds voter-ID requirements and limits the number of ballot drop boxes. However, two days after making the request of conservatives, a picture taken of his desk showed what looked like a bottle of Coke in the corner.