"I'm not talking about political contributions": McConnell adds important caveat to corporate threat

"My warning to corporate America is to stay out of politics," GOP Senate Leader Mitch McConnell said on Tuesday

By Jon Skolnik
April 6, 2021 7:54PM (UTC)
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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., conducts a news conference after the Senate Republican Policy luncheon in Hart Building on Tuesday, September 15, 2020. (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

Republicans are retaliating against corporations that have condemned Georgia's anti-voting law, launching various pressure campaigns and weaponizing legislative threats that would affect Corporate America's bottom line. 

Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., accused corporations of siding with the Democrats, expressing that there would be "serious consequences" if companies continued to do so. 

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"So my warning, if you will, to corporate America is to stay out of politics," McConnell told reporters at a news conference on Tuesday. "It's not what you're designed for. And don't be intimidated by the left into taking up causes that put you right in the middle of one of America's greatest political debates."

"I'm not talking about political contributions," he quickly added. "Most of them contribute to both sides, they have political action committees, that's fine. It's legal, it's appropriate, I support that. I'm talking about taking a position on a highly incendiary issue like this and punishing a community or a state, because you don't like a particular law that passed, I just think it's stupid."

McConnell's threats appear anything but idle, with numerous Republicans calling for boycotts of companies that expressed opposition to Georgia's new law.

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"For years the Radical Left Democrats have played dirty by boycotting products when anything from that company is done or stated in any way that offends them," said former President Trump said in a statement on Saturday released by Save America PAC. "Now they are going big time with the WOKE CANCEL CULTURE and our sacred elections." Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel echoed Trump: "Guess what I am doing today? Not watching baseball!!!!" 

GOP state senators from Georgia have announced the removal of Coca-Cola products from their Georgia statehouse offices following the company's rebuke of the legislature's new bill. "Given Coke's choice to cave to the pressure of an out of control cancel culture, we respectfully request all Coca-Cola products be removed from our office suite immediately," said several state lawmakers in a statement.  

Rising beyond that of just rhetoric, however, Republicans are also employing legislative moves to threaten Corporate America's bottom line, signaling a cultural fissure between the GOP and Big Business, two groups that have in the past been known for symbiotic back-scratching. In 2017, for example, the GOP slashed the corporate tax rate from 35 to 21 percent, a move that likely won the GOP an army of corporate benefactors, according to Politico.  

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Now, however, the GOP appears to be weaponizing the tax code. Last Wednesday, Georgia's Republican-majority House attempted to rescind a major $35 million tax break for Delta Airlines to start collecting levies on jet fuel beginning July 1. The state Senate ultimately declined to take up the measure, but the move signals a marked break from the GOP's corporate-aligned orthodoxy. 

Rodney Anderson, Chairman of the Dallas Republican Party, similarly tweeted but later deleted a post on Friday suggesting the cancellation of state tax breaks for American Airlines and Dell. 

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"They need to stay out of politics, especially when they have no clue what they're talking about," Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said of corporations. "I'm sending a message to these Texas-based companies that have made the very same mistake with regard to Texas laws," Abbott said. "We have American Airlines, we have AT&T, we have Dell Computers and others who have taken a position against the election law reforms that we made in the state of Texas where the CEOs of these companies and the leaders of these companies admitted that they had no idea what the Texas law said or what the Texas proposed law says before taking a position against it."

Following Major League Baseball's decision to pull its All-Star game from Atlanta in protest of Georgia's new voting bill, several GOP members of Congress proposed that the government scrap MLB's designation as a "sport" and not a "business," which would eliminate the league's exemption from antitrust laws. 

"The woke capitalists continue their campaign of retaliation & suppression against anyone who stands for election integrity," tweeted Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo. "They tried it against me, now they're at it in Georgia. #MLB should lose its government handout antitrust exemption." 

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Next week, Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., and 10 co-sponsors intend to introduce the "Teddy Roosevelt Fair Competition and Public Trust Act of 2021," which would strip the MLB of its exemption status. 

Many Republicans have framed the GOP's brigade against Corporate Americas as a populist revolt, despite having no evidence that it aligns with popular opinion.

"After two decades of the left being on offense, normal people are starting to fight back and say if these are the rules of the game, we are going to play, too," said former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich. "I think that's [Republicans] saying, 'Oh, you want to pick a fight with me? This is what a fight is going to be like.'"

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Jon Skolnik

Jon Skolnik is a staff writer at Salon. His work has appeared in Current Affairs, The Baffler, AlterNet, and The New York Daily News.

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