Companies are still waiting to hear if they'll continue making political donations

6 minutes
Companies are still waiting to hear if they'll continue making political donations

Protesters gather outside the Georgia State Capitol to protest HB 531, which would place tougher restrictions on voting in Atlanta, Georgia, United States March 4, 2021.

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

Various advocacy groups have said the law explicitly affects Black voters, who played a key role in Democrats' surprising victories in two U.S. Senate elections earlier this year and the presidential election last year.

The new law creates some hurdles to voting via mail and provides greater legislative oversight over how elections are run. Companies such as Delta attacked the law for being too restrictive.

CNBC reached out to six companies to ask whether they would continue making corporate donations to Georgia politicians who support the new law. Three responded; one of them, Coca-Cola, pointed to its decision to halt all political giving following the riot on Jan 6 at Capitol Hill. But some companies are keeping quiet on whether they will continue making donations to Kemp and other Georgia Republicans who support the law.

Several major companies in Georgia have criticized the state's controversial new voting restrictions, signed into law last week by the Republican Governor.

Brian Kemp; Kemp and other Georgia Republicans have dismissed the law and defended corporate concerns about it. Delta, which is headquartered in Atlanta, came out Wednesday against the law in a blistering memo from CEO Ed Bastian.

The company, through its political action committee, has a history of supporting Kemp and several of the sponsors of the bill.

Since 2018, the PAC has given over$ 25,000 to Kemp and several GOP lawmakers. A Delta spokeswoman would not say whether the company would halt its donations to Kemp and the other supporters of the law. As it relates to DeltaPAC and our political donations, we have strong processes in place for reviewing candidates before each contribution to ensure they align with both Delta's position on priority aviation and business issues, and our values, said Lisa Hanna, the Delta spokesperson, in an email.

Prior contributions do not mean DeltaPAC will contribute to a candidate in the future.

Delta representative also said that due to the COVID 19 pandemic, we have not made any individual contributions to Georgia State House or Senate candidates since before 2020. Critics are calling for more accountability from organizations such as Delta.

Today, they have to match their political spending with their rhetoric, said Bruce Freed, president of the Nonpartisan Center for Political Accountability, which tracks corporate money in politics.

They have passed the point of no return now, it's not just cost free anymore or access free, he noted while pointing to the previous calls for boycotting of some Georgia-based companies.

They are now finding that it is such a deep reaction among consumers and among the public that it affects not only their reputation but their bottom line, Freed said in explaining how companies are now looking at the public reaction to their corporate donations. For Coca-Cola it was a matter of sticking to a policy it instituted after the deadly riot at the Capitol by pro-Trump supporters.

In a Wednesday interview with CNBC, Coca-Cola CEO James Quincey called the Georgia law unacceptable.

In a statement on Thursday, Quincey added that the company is now focused on supporting federal legislation that protects voting access and addresses voter suppression across the country. We suspended all political donations in January and that pause continues, said Ann Moore, a spokeswoman for Coca-Cola. Moore said the suspension of contributions affects federal candidates, not just state candidates.

Since 2018, Georgia has paid more than$ 25,000 to the sponsors of the Coca-Cola voting restrictions bill since 2018. This total includes over$ 10,000 to Kemp's campaigns for governor between 2018 and 2020.

We have n't set any timeline but are continuing to think about how we use these resources, Moore said when asked if the beverage giant had any plans to resume contributions. Home Depot, also headquartered in Atlanta, said recently in response to the Georgia voting law that it would work to ensure its workers across the country have the resources and information to vote.

The company would not say, however, whether it would continue to support lawmakers who support the law.

Our Associate-funded PAC supports candidates on both sides of the aisle who want economic positions that create jobs and support pro-business, said Sara Gorman, a spokeswoman for Home Depot.

As always, it will evaluate future donations against a number of factors.

Kemp and the lawmakers who sponsored the bill have given home Depot at least$ 30,000. AT& T is based in Georgia, but it gave Kemp$ 70,000 to Texas' campaign and cosponsors of the Texas bill.

A video on Twitter shows the Black Voters Matter group protesting outside AT& T headquarters Monday.

We understand that election laws are complicated, not our company's expertise and ultimately the responsibility of elected officials. But as a company, we have a responsibility to work together with other businesses through groups like the Business Roundtable to support efforts to increase the ability of every person to vote.

In this way, the right knowledge and expertise can be applied to make a difference on this fundamental and critical issue, Stankey added. UPS and Southern Company Gas, two Georgia-based companies that have given to various sponsors of the bill through their PAC or Kemp's campaign, did not respond to a request for comment. UPS has previously said that it believes that the ballot laws and legislation should make it harder for Americans to exercise their right to vote, not harder.

It did not directly address the bill; after the Jan. 6 riot, UPS said it would suspend all PAC contributions for the time being.

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

We understand that election law is complicated, not our company's expertise and ultimately the responsibility of elected officials. As a company, we have a responsibility to engage; for this reason, we work with other businesses through groups like the Business Roundtable to enhance efforts to encourage citizens' ability to vote.

In this way, fundamental and critical knowledge can be applied to make a difference on this problem.

We are an active member of the BRT and fully support its statement of principles on voting laws.

Easily accessible and secure voting is not only a valuable right and responsibility, it's the best way to ensure that everyone's voice is heard.

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