Republicans angered after over 100 top corporate leaders meet to push back against GOP war on voting

"Oligarchy defined," Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley, a propagator of Trump's Big Lie, complained of the corporate effort

By Jon Skolnik

Staff Writer

Published April 12, 2021 4:49PM (EDT)

Mitch McConnell (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Mitch McConnell (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

Over 100 top corporate leaders convened in a "first-of-its-kind" virtual meeting to plan a concerted response to the Republican-backed voting rights restrictions that have swept the nation. 

The move comes amid a fissure between the GOP and Corporate America following the latter's denunciation of HB 202, a sweeping anti-voting bill passed by the Georgia state legislature late last month. When the MLB pulled its All-Star game from Atlanta in protest of the newly-minted law, many GOP Senators accused corporate America of falling into the hands of the "radical leftists."

Last month, when 100 major corporations signaled their opposition to HB 202, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., whose PAC received some $475 million from corporate donors last year alone, told Corporate America to "stay out of politics."

"Our private sector must stop taking cues from the Outrage-Industrial Complex," McConnell said. "Americans do not need or want big business to amplify disinformation or react to every manufactured controversy with frantic left-wing signaling. Corporations will invite serious consequences if they become a vehicle for far-left mobs to hijack our country from outside the constitutional order."

During the call, executives from "major airlines, retailers and manufacturers — plus at least one NFL owner" reportedly floated the idea of halting all political contributions to lawmakers that backed any bills designed to suppress the vote, according to Axios. Even more, corporate leaders reportedly discussed discontinuing any investments in states which passed such bills. Among those who attended the meeting were "Arthur Blank, owner of the NFL's Atlanta Falcons; Adam Aron, CEO of AMC Theatres; Mellody Hobson, co-CEO of Ariel Investments; Doug McMillon, CEO of Walmart;  Reid Hoffman, CEO of LinkedIn; Scott Kirby, CEO of United Airlines; Doug Parker, CEO of American Airlines; and Chip Bergh, chairman of Levi Strauss Company, according to CBS.

"The gathering was an enthusiastic voluntary statement of defiance against threats of reprisals for exercising their patriotic voices," Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, a Yale University management professor who helped organize the meeting, told CBS. "They're showing a disdain for these political attacks. Not only are they fortifying each other, but they see that this spreading of disease of voter restrictions from Georgia to up to possibly 46 other states is based on a false premise and its' anti-democratic."

The meeting, which did not amount to any significant action plan, drew sharp rebukes from various Republicans. 

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., tweeted on Sunday, "Oligarchy defined: The most powerful corporations in America get together to plan how to control legislation in dozens of states."

"It's kind of scary how major corporations are trying to force policy changes," echoed Fox News contributor Lisa Boothe.

The event comes following reports that corporate America systematically supported many anti-voting bills' state-level sponsors. According to a report by Public Citizen, a government watchdog group, state legislators pushing for voting restrictions have taken in over $50 million in corporate donations over the past several years. AT&T, for instance, gave over $800,000 since 2015 to sponsors of anti-voting measures throughout the country.

"A contribution of $5,000 to a U.S. senator who is raising $30 million is a drop in a bucket. But in some of these state races, a few thousand dollars can buy a lot of ad time," said Mike Tanglis, one of the authors of the report. "If corporate America is going to say that (Trump's) lie is unacceptable on the federal level, what about on the state level?"

By Jon Skolnik

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

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Big Lie Legislation Coca-cola Corporations Delta Gop Josh Hawley Mitch Mcconnell Voter Fraud Myth