More than 100 execs hold call to discuss halting donations, investments to fight voting bills

More than 100 chief executives and corporate leaders gathered online Saturday to discuss taking new action to combat state voting bills being considered across the country, including the one recently signed into law in Georgia.

Executives from major airlines, retailers and manufacturers—plus at least one owner of a National Football team—talked about ways to show that they opposed the legislation, including by halting donations to politicians who support the bills and delaying investments in states that pass the restrictive measures, according to four people who were on the call, including one of the organizers, Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, a Yale University management professor.

While no final steps were agreed upon, the meeting represents an aggressive dialing up of corporate America’s stand against controversial voting measures nationwide, a sign that their opposition to the laws did not end with the fight against the Georgia legislation passed in March.

It also came days after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., warned that firms should “stay out of politics”—echoing a call shared by many conservative politicians and setting up the potential for additional conflict between Republican leaders and the heads of some of America’s largest firms. This month, former president Donald Trump called for conservatives to boycott Coca-Cola, Major League Baseball, Delta Air Lines, Citigroup, ViacomCBS, UPS and other companies after they opposed the law in Georgia that critics say will make it more difficult for poorer voters and voters of color to cast ballots. Baseball officials decided to move the All-Star Game this summer from Georgia to Colorado because of the voting bill.

The online call for corporate executives on Saturday “shows they are not intimidated by the flak. They are not going to be cowed,” Sonnenfeld said. “They felt very strongly that these voting restrictions are based on a flawed premise and are dangerous.”

Leaders from dozens of companies including Delta, American, United, Starbucks, Target, LinkedIn, Levi Strauss and Boston Consulting Group, along with Atlanta Falcons team owner Arthur Blank, were included on the call, according to people who listened. The meeting was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

The discussion—scheduled to last one hour but going 10 minutes longer—was led at times by Kenneth Chenault, the former chief executive of American Express, and Kenneth Frazier, the chief executive of Merck, who told the executives that it was important to keep fighting what they viewed as discriminatory laws on voting. Chenault and Frazier coordinated a letter signed last month by 72 Black business executives that made a similar point – a letter that first drew attention to the voting bills in executive suites across the country.

The call’s goal was to unify companies that had been issuing their own statements and signing on to drafted statements from organizations after the action in Georgia, Sonnenfeld said. The leaders called in from across the country—some chimed in from Augusta, Ga., where they were attending the Masters golf tournament.

“There was a defiance of the threats that businesses should stay out of politics,” Sonnenfeld said. “They were obviously rejecting that even with their presence (on the call). But they were there out of concern about voting restrictions not being in the public interest.”

One Georgia-based executive talked about how the final version of Georgia’s legislation—which Republican Gov. Brian Kemp has said expands voting access, a claim that many have challenged—was much worse than expected, and how that should serve as a warning to other chief executives as more states consider adopting their own voting bills, according to people on the call.

Access to the polls has emerged as a major national issue. Republican state lawmakers are trying to pass legislation they say is designed to combat voting fraud—which Trump has baselessly and frequently claimed is a problem. GOP-backed bills in statehouses aim to ban ballot drop boxes, limit voting periods, restrict absentee voting or stiffen requirements for voter identification. Five bills with new voter restrictions have been passed nationwide, with 55 restrictive bills in 24 states being considered by legislatures, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, a nonpartisan law and policy institute.

Companies have jumped into political debates before, such as the corporate backlash to a 2016 North Carolina bill barring transgender people from using the public restroom that corresponds with their gender identities. After the Capitol riot in January, many companies pledged to stop donating to politicians who spurred doubts about the outcome of the presidential election.

Now, it is voting rights. Many of the corporate leaders who joined the call seemed to view the voting restrictions as attacks on democracy, rather than as a partisan issue, according to people who listened in.

Mike Ward, vice president of the Civic Alliance, a nonpartisan group of businesses focused on voter engagement, said there was a broad consensus at the end of the call that company leaders plan to continue working against voting bills they think are restrictive—”to lean into this, not lean away from this.”

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27 thoughts on “More than 100 execs hold call to discuss halting donations, investments to fight voting bills

  1. Once again the media led Democrats triumph by framing and naming the debate as one of “Voter Restrictions”. The real issue is “Voter Qualification Confirmation”. In an age when most transactions require a state issued I.D. / Drivers License …, from driving a motor vehicle, buying cigarettes and alcohol, renting a carpet cleaner, boarding an aircraft, and where I live, voting …, political activists are determined to cancel states rights to confirm that each vote is valid in elections. These activists, including global corporations, want elections that do not verify voter identification for a number of reasons based on each of their special interests. They are free to pursue such interests, just as consumers are free to pick and choose what products and services they purchase. Live by the sword, die by the sword. If the activists really cared about citizens rights to vote, they would spend their resources to come alongside every citizen to help them get a state I.D. so they could participate in fair elections that cannot be contested or questioned, because each vote is validated by an approved form of identification. Of course if your objective is for non-citizens to vote, and to have individuals cast multiple votes, you oppose this common-sense approach to legitimate elections.

    1. Mark H – You are absolutely correct. “opposed the law in Georgia that critics say will make it more difficult for poorer voters and voters of color to cast ballots.” These people are racists! I will boycott every company that opposes a fair election.

    2. Right on, Mark. Thanks for the good post. I’ve worked the polls on Election Days for going on 40 continuous years and your statements are spot-on.

    3. This is spoken like a middle class white guy that never had an episode where they might have lost their house, had to move from one state to another looking for work or shelter, and then could not afford to renew his drivers license in time to discover if they let it lapse that the paperwork required to re-instate it is impossible without hiring a lawyer they cannot afford to acquire the paperwork or get an affidavit from a judge.

      If you think something like that is far fetched, then you may be shocked to find out it is more common than you think. Good people for lots of reason don’t have a valid drivers license or a state ID and most of the reasons stem from poverty.

      With heartless Republicans clawing back at the social safety net, it is becoming more common and it is a wonderful way for keeping “those people” from voting and maybe making changes to the laws that lead to such poverty.

      It sounds so reasonable on the surface, but you need to have a little empathy and understanding. It should be your right as a citizen to vote.

    4. So Dan M because of the situation(s) you outlined we should just let voting be done by the honor system. The only side that favors that method is the winning side. Don’t forget it wasn’t just Republican’s in this election crying foul. It was Democrats in 2016. Anything we can do to strengthen people’s faith in the outcome is a worthy endeavor. As Mark correctly stated their are ways to help those that need help with a state ID and efforts should be concentrated in that area. Is that not a fair and humane approach to the problem rather than were going to boycott your state if you don’t fall in line with Democratic objectives. This continuous alienating of 50% of the people has got to stop. Why this sudden push for one party rule?

    5. 2016 and 2020 are completely different elections.

      In 2016, there were no allegations that anyone changed ballots. What was changed or hacked were minds. Trump alleged fraud in 2016 both before and after the election and convened a group to look into it. They quietly disbanded after finding no election fraud.

      In 2020, the allegations made by Trump *before the election* was that it was again fraudulent. Despite 60 court cases, no evidence of fraud was produced yet again.

      There is far more than just voter ID in the Georgia bill, including the ability for the state to take over local election boards as they see fit. Basically, the state of Georgia now has the ability to manufacture the result they want. They changed the law to stop the count as they see fit and change what ballots they decide to count. And this is all based on the lie that there were issues to fix with the last election.

      Just because a lie is repeated a million times doesn’t make it the truth. But it does fool a lot of people into thinking there are issues with election integrity.

  2. Nothing highlights what a fraud our “democracy” is when a huge number of powerful economic interests can openly conspire with politicians to rig state or national laws in the way that they prefer. Never mind that support for requiring ID to vote is supported over 2:1 amongst the public and enjoys majority support from every single racial/ethnic group. Our corporate and political overlords want something different – don’t ask why, just accept being steamrolled.

    1. Republicans pushed for corporations to have more of a voice for decades, culminating in Citizens United.

      I’m waiting on Republicans to push for publicly funded elections next…

    2. Don’t be fooled by thinking this is just a single issue for large corporations. Legislation is driven by political donations from lobbyists. You may not see the lobbyist’s face but when the legislator accepts the donation for a campaign, it’s no different than a bribe paying for regulation that someone needs for additional profit. Corporate money should be removed from politics completely.

  3. These companies won’t have the cash to make political contributions when consumers choose to do business with their less vocal competition. McConnell gave them good advise when he asked them to stay out of politics. Just as Democratic Party leaders in Georgia are back tracking on their support of MLB moving the All-Star game out of state and corporations delaying business expansion in their state, this will also boomerang on the “donkey” party.

  4. Republicans are the ones being dishonest. They are making changes for two reasons:

    1) Republicans lost the Presidency in 2020 by roughly the same narrow electoral margin they won in 2016.
    2) the complete lie there was election fraud in 2020 that would have changed the outcome, a lie thrown out of every court in the land, including a Supreme Court which had three nominees picked by Donald Trump which didn’t even bother to hear the case, the “evidence” was so flimsy.

    If there was election fraud, someone explain to me why Republicans picked up seats in the House and the Senate is a 50/50 split.

    It’s very simple – Republicans know that if everyone votes, they’re sunk. So they have to do everything possible to make voting hard … because that’s easier than coming up with a platform that can win.

    1. Joe B:

      1. Not true. This bill is about Voter ID. Why any American would oppose the need to provide an active ID to vote is beyond me. You need an active ID for anything you do in this life now. As you go through your week, just see how many times you need to provide ID for tasks much less significant than the sanctity of voting.

      And just what is being so dishonest about making sure every voter has an active ID? That is the opposite of dishonest as it secures truth.

      2. Thanks for making every Republican’s argument regarding the 2020 election. You say how could there be voter fraud if Republicans picked up seats in the House and have a 50/50 split in the Senate. Well, nicely done because the Republicans say with the way the House & Senate elections turned out, explain to me how Biden could have possibly won without fraud! Do you really believe Biden could get more votes than Obama did in 2008 and 2012? Absolutely no way! This guy couldn’t even get enough people at his “rally’s” to qualify them as a rally because he rarely came out of his basement and into the public eye during the campaign. If you believe this, then maybe all future Presidential candidates should campaign out of their basements for the 2024.

      Finally, look at Biden’s social media #’s … they were about 20% of those following Trump.

    2. Vincent G. I couldn’t agree more. And further more the election really isn’t over yet. If you rob a bank and get out of the bank with all the money, the cops don’t just say “Oh! well, he got away with it. There is nothing we can do.” No they don’t they hunt them down and make them pay for their crime. If you really think President Trump is going to let the steal of the 2020 election stand, you learned nothing about him in the last 4 years. Joe B – watch what happens next. It isn’t over. We will win! When you know, you know.

    3. Vincent, Joe is completely right. I guess it is just a coincidence that this bill was pushed through with such extreme urgency yet had nothing to do with the Big Lie that the President and GOP spread that there was widespread voter fraud. To this day zero proof has been presented. Please find one reputable court or agency that confirms significant voter fraud and you might have an audience but the best proof you have is a nutty pillow guy. Second, if you are asking how could Biden have won when seats were lost in the House (a quick lesson in gerrymandering might help) then you should also be asking how Trump and Bush could possibly win the presidency when they both lost the popular vote. As for the Senate you should be asking how is it that a Senator from North Dakota represents 380,000 voters and one from California represents 2 million yet have the same voting power in the Senate. You also forgot the argument of how could Trump have lost the election when he got 74 million votes . . . 5 million more votes than any other President in history! Simple, because Biden got 84 million votes . . . 12 million more votes than any other President in history. Lastly, if you think the number of Twitter followers should determine presidential elections then Obama would still be President but since he has already served two terms we would have President Justin Bieber.

    4. Greg S. You must believe everything you hear from MSM. They are the reason you have not seen evidence of the widespread election fraud. I see you have great passion for the left. Just curious about what you think of your president. Is he handling the boarder crisis better than President Trump? Are you happy that he wants to override the 2nd Amendment? Are you satisfied with the extreme censorship from MSM and social media and the 1st Amendment being abused? Are you thrilled with his proposed 28% tax increase for small businesses? Do you feel comfortable sleeping at night knowing the way he is handling foreign affairs. Do you like war? Do you believe he is providing humanitarian care for the children who have and are entering our country? Are you proud of your president? Are you excited about his aggressive move to stack the Supreme Court? Do you approve of being placed second to illegal immigrants? Do you really believe the election result spikes occurred legally at 3am? Do you do any research on your own? If you really think President Trump is going to let the steal of the 2020 election stand, you learned nothing about him in the last 4 years. Watch what happens next. It isn’t over. We will win! When you know, you know.

    5. Greg S. really, you would abolish the senate because it is set up to give voice to all States? In Indiana we would have zero say in anything if you balanced the decision making according to population of a state. The senate was setup for that very purpose. To give voice to all states regardless of their size. One other thing. I seem to remember a woman in 2016 that to this day still claims the Presidential election was stolen from her. Seems that striving to make elections more secure for all people is a worthy goal. That means you’ll have rules to abide by and not have a free-for-all voting system. It helps all interested parties to ensure election integrity.

    6. Vincent:

      You left out the part of the bill where elected state officials can swoop in and take control of local election boards for no good reason… other than “those people” didn’t pick the “right” winner. Explain why that’s needed.

      Again, they counted the ballots in Georgia three times. The election was run by Republicans who, but the way, stood by their work. The only “fraud” is that “those” people – the ones who aren’t “real Americans” anyway – didn’t pick the “right” winner. Go on and tell me how the Democrats were sore losers in 2016.

  5. I would venture a guess, most people would agree to two things 1. everyone who is eligible to vote should not only be allowed to vote but encouraged to vote. 2. Requiring an ID to vote is not unreasonable.

  6. 131 locations in the State of Indiana and you can get it for FREE.

    https://www.in.gov/sos/elections/voter-information/photo-id-law/obtaining-a-photo-id/

    If you do not possess an ID that is acceptable for voting purposes, Public Law 109-2005 requires the BMV to issue an Indiana State ID Card for free.

    To obtain a free ID card for voting purposes from any BMV license branch, you will need to supply the necessary documentation. Please visit the BMVs website at https://www.in.gov/bmv/ for more information on what documentation is required.

    SecureID is the BMV’s effort to fully comply with the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission and with state and federal regulations. All permanent driver’s licenses, permits, or ID cards will be mailed to customers and received within 10 business days. Temporary IDs will be given directly to the customer until the permanent IDs are received by mail. Temporary ID cards are acceptable for voting.

    A non-SecureID driver’s license or identification card indicates you have not provided the documentation necessary to validate your identity, lawful status, Social Security number, or Indiana residency. Only individuals with a current Indiana driver’s license or identification card are eligible to apply for a non-SecureID. A non-SecureID driver’s license will allow you to drive and vote. A non-SecureID identification card will allow you to vote.

  7. The Georgia law requires voters to provide -wait for it – the last 4 digits of their social security number. The horror! Hell, I had to supply a photo I.D. and proof of residence to get a library card.

  8. Vincent G.
    2. Did you forget who the candidate for President was in 2020? Could his low approval numbers have forecast his loss, while other Republicans won their races? Joe B. didn’t make every R’s argument at all… you failed to exercise some basic forms of critical thinking in your argument (confirmation bias & burden of proof). So, yes… there is a way that Biden won without fraud – he won because his positions were more favorable to more people who were registered to vote and who voted.

    And if you’re going to use some ad hoc data point as a “finally” argument, at least provide a link to a reputable source.

    A question for all in this forum – “What do Voter ID Requirements have to do with not allowing water or food to be provided to people standing in line to vote?” and then ask yourself “What does it have to do with reducing the number of voting locations and early voting opportunities?” From this, we can see that the common sense thing (voter ID) is not what these companies are objecting to, it is the legislation of laws to disenfranchise voters. So, as you preface your arguments in favor of GA legislature & Gov Kemp, please state all – not just the popular aspect.

    1. You’re dodging the issue. Give one good reason why there should not be a voter ID law.
      Everybody knows this past election was a fraud, do you really think 80 million people voted for Biden? He had zero positions on anything, that was Obama’s whole game plan, run a half-wit out there with zero positions on anything and we will take care of the votes in the middle of the night. Then pick a weak, very weak VP choice who would support a radical left agenda.
      Now answer the question.

    2. Thanks for making my point for me.

      The bill has far more than voter ID. You left put the part of the bill where elected state officials can swoop in and take control of local election boards for no good reason… other than “those people” didn’t pick the “right” winner. Explain why that’s needed.

      The Republican Party set the rules for the election in Georgia and administered the election in 2020. It was a properly run election. They counted the ballots three times. The only reason people think there is fraud is because they believe the lies. There’s no reason to change the law so Republicans can swoop in and decide all the ballots in Fulton County are invalid.

      Just remember, if any journalist had access to all this “proof”, they would win every journalism award that existed and they’d be set for life. But sure, they’re going to sit on it and because they’d rather be woke and broke instead of rich and famous. Next you’re going to tell me the entire moon program was a fraud and all those people kept the secret.

      And please, keep telling me about the danger of Socialism while you destroy democracy. Putin is so proud of his work here.

    3. As to why Trump lost, it’s real simple.

      1) no one hates Joe Biden as much as they hate Hillary. Be honest.
      2) he was better suited to run as a change agent than an incumbent with a record. Remember how he was going to repeal and replace Obamacare? How about Infrastructure Week?
      3) Trump’s administration was filled with cranks and butt kissers who were ill-suited to respond to the coronavirus.

  9. Indiana does have one voting irregularity no one seems to have mentioned: when you look at the voting machine, there’s a label at the top which says, “By Indiana law, you have two minutes to vote.”
    .
    What the #)$(*#$? Two minutes?

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