At a news conference in Kentucky on Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell made the following remarkable statement: “My warning to corporate America is to stay out of politics.” It was remarkable even to him, leading to this later statement in that same news conference: “I’m not talking about political contributions.” More succinctly, he wants the business community to pay up and shut up.
On Wednesday, McConnell admitted he had not spoken “artfully” the day before, but continued to warn against “economic blackmail,” which is his description for the corporate responses in Georgia to its recently enacted voter suppression law. Delta and Coca Cola feigned outrage after it passed, primarily because those most important to these large Georgia-based companies asked them why they had been passively supporting it. In response, the Georgia House of Representatives passed another law removing a jet fuel tax break for Delta, though the Senate did not follow suit. This is a move that has become commonplace in the Peach state. The legislature revoked the same jet fuel tax break in 2018 after Delta cut ties with the NRA in response to the Parkland, Florida school shooting. Then-Governor Nathan Deal suspended collecting it months later.
I’m having trouble keeping track of who is blackmailing who.
It has been a little over a decade since the landmark campaign finance U.S. Supreme Court ruling was made in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. Remember that little gem from 2010, written by the late, conservative hall-of-famer, Justice Antonin Scalia? The conservative nonprofit group, Citizens United, had been prohibited from promoting and airing a film that attacked presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, too close to the presidential primaries. The group challenged the rules and won, in a 5-4 decision.
So what? Well, the decision became less about the film and all about whether “corporations” had the same rights as “people,” at least as it pertained to participating in the wonderful world of campaign finance. In this ruling, the court decided they did, and that limiting corporations’ “independent political spending” violates the First Amendment right to free speech. For at least a century prior, the court had upheld restrictions in this arena because of the government’s appropriate role in preventing corruption. The Citizens United ruling obliterated that, allowing corporations unlimited political spending freedom, as long as it was not “coordinated” with any candidate or party.
In 2010 conservative America, corporations were people too. And those were good times. Things made sense then. The Chambers of Commerce across the country seemed synonymous with the GOP. Both of them loved low taxes, small government, little to no regulation, you know, money-making stuff. But as our nation’s populace continues to evolve, and “money-making stuff” evolves with it, this mutual love for one another seems to be fizzling out and heading for divorce due to their irreconcilable differences.
There is less and less money in alienating black and brown people. Women and LGBT people generally don’t think much of voter suppression either. And all of these groups of Americans represent customers, talent, and yes, even investors in companies of which the GOP used to rely. The country club members just aren’t as enamored with where the Republican Party has been heading lately, and since I brought it up, country clubs aren’t as desirable as they used to be either.
As we watch golf’s premier event this weekend at America’s most exclusive club, Augusta National Golf Club, I can’t help reminding people that the city-county area of Augusta, Georgia is nearly two-thirds black. If we don’t see some coverage of how the people there feel about their state legislature’s recent shenanigans, ESPN and CBS Sports are both sleeping at the switch. I think an interview with Condoleeza Rice is literally required journalism. The former U.S. Secretary of State is a member there, breaking a few notable barriers herself when she joined.
American Airlines followed Delta’s lead by speaking out against similar legislation in its home state of Texas last week, though they did it better by speaking up before it passed. On Tuesday, one of Indiana’s largest corporate community leaders, Eli Lilly, testified before a House committee in opposition to a bill that would make mail-in voting more difficult.
Eleven years ago, the Republican machine made it possible for these corporations to exercise their free speech by enabling them to shower Republicans with unlimited campaign money. That was the deal.
It turns out that in marriages like this, even when there is no limit on the money, there is absolutely a limit on the love.