Corporations Are Still Funding the GOP Campaign to Roll Back Voting Rights
Many corporations made a big show of rejecting the GOP’s most reactionary leaders after the January 6 capitol riot. But records show that, post-riot, big business kept funneling millions to GOP groups to roll back voting rights.
Major corporations won praise in the weeks after the January 6 Capital riot by expressing support for voting rights and promising to suspend their political action committee donations to Republican lawmakers who had tried to overturn the election. Corporate America would be a vanguard in the defense of democracy, some headlines suggested.
Left largely unmentioned: brand-name corporations and corporate lobbying groups still funneled $15 million last year to two major GOP groups — the Republican Attorneys General Association and the Republican State Leadership Committee — after the organizations and their officials pushed to curtail voting rights and overturn the 2020 election, according to IRS records we reviewed.
Meanwhile, many major companies continue to support the US Chamber of Commerce — even as the powerful lobby group has been leading the fight against federal legislation protecting voting rights.
RAGA Rakes in Cash
In November 2020, the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA) backed a Supreme Court amicus brief requesting that the high court prevent Pennsylvania election officials from counting mail-in ballots postmarked on election day.
The brief alleged that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court had opened the door for “unscrupulous actors” to “attempt to influence a close Presidential election in Pennsylvania and elsewhere” by granting a three-day extension for ballot counting because of problems with the COVID-19 pandemic and US Postal Service delays.
A month later, Texas Republican attorney general Ken Paxton brought suit to withhold the certified vote count from Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin ahead of the Electoral College vote on December 14, on the grounds that the states had violated the Constitution when they changed their election rules to make accommodations for COVID.
Supporting Paxton’s lawsuit were the Republican attorneys general from seventeen states: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, and West Virginia. The group filed an amicus brief in the case. All but one of RAGA’s executive committee members at the time — Georgia attorney general Chris Carr — were represented among the signatories.
Amid those brazen attempts to overturn the national election, forty-seven companies and trade associations donated nearly $1.5 million to the Republican Attorneys General Association in December 2020. Several of the donor companies have subsequently claimed to support voting rights.
For instance, Philadelphia-based international law firm Cozen O’Connor signed the well-publicized “We Stand for Democracy” letter against voter suppression laws in April. Yet the firm funneled $50,000 to RAGA weeks after the group tried to convince the Supreme Court to overturn the election in Cozen’s home state of Pennsylvania.
Other signatories to the letter that also gave to RAGA in December were PayPal ($50,000) and Lyft ($25,000).
A number of companies gave to RAGA in the days immediately after it filed the brief. Those include Johnson & Johnson ($50,000), PepsiCo ($25,000), U.S. Sugar Corporation ($15,000), and Microsoft ($25,000).
Walmart, which would later decline to sign on to a letter pledging support for democracy and voting access, gave $125,000 to RAGA in late December. Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, meanwhile, gave $15,000 to RAGA in December, only to pledge three weeks later not to give PAC donations to the lawmakers who voted against accepting the Electoral College results.
Soon after the money flowed to RAGA, the group helped direct people to the January 6 protest preceding the Capitol insurrection through its dark money arm, the Rule of Law Defense Fund (RLDF). RLDF appeared on the “March to Save America” website and even made robocalls promoting the protest that eventually resulted in the storming of the US Capitol building.
“The March to Save America is tomorrow in Washington, DC, at the Ellipse in President’s Park between E St. and Constitution Avenue on the south side of the White House, with doors opening at 7:00 a.m.,” the calls stated. “At 1:00 p.m., we will march to the Capitol building and call on Congress to stop the steal. We are hoping patriots like you will join us to continue to fight to protect the integrity of our elections. For more information, visit MarchtoSaveAmerica.com.”
Since then, Republican attorneys general backed by RAGA have continued to try to make voting more difficult. Texas attorney general Ken Paxton, for example, urged states with Republican legislatures to tighten their election laws in March.
“There are certain states where we still control legislatures and we still have governors,” Paxton said in an interview with Breitbart. “I would encourage them to work with the legislature in those states and make sure that their laws are tightened up.”
Meanwhile, Arizona attorney general Mark Brnovich has been fighting to uphold restrictive voting laws, claiming to do so in the name of “election integrity.”
“There is a whole menu of options of how people can exercise their right to vote. Nobody is disenfranchising anybody in Arizona,” he said in February. “This litigation is all about, ‘Can we protect the integrity of our ballots?’”
The laws — the first invalidating ballots cast in the wrong precinct; the second banning third-party ballot collection, or “ballot harvesting” — were challenged by the Democratic National Committee, which argued that they had a discriminatory impact on racial minorities that connects to a history of discrimination in the state.
In January 2020, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals struck the laws down on the grounds that they violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits voting procedures that discriminate on the basis of race, color, or membership to minority groups.
As the case headed to the Supreme Court, Brnovich dismissed Democratic complaints that the laws would disproportionately impact minority voters, claiming that “they always play the race card.” The case is ongoing.
RSLC Scores Millions After Trying to Restrict Voting Rights
In the months before the election, another GOP group, the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC), filed a Supreme Court amicus brief pressing justices to uphold Arizona’s restrictive voter laws. If the court sides with the GOP, the decision could gut the main remaining enforcement mechanism in the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965.
“RSLC submits this brief in support of Petitioners because the Ninth Circuit’s ruling, if allowed to stand, will significantly undermine the ability of states to safeguard election integrity and maintain voter confidence, and will cause paralyzing uncertainty as to the continued validity of innumerable facially-neutral time, place, and manner election regulations,” the June 1, 2020, brief reads.
More than two hundred corporations and trade associations gave RSLC nearly $13.7 million after the organization filed its brief, according to data compiled by CQ Roll Call’s Political MoneyLine. Some of the biggest donors included BNSF Railway ($280,000) and Dominion Energy ($170,000).
Health insurance giant Centene Corporation contributed $250,000, while Anthem chipped in $50,000. Pharmaceutical companies continued donating, too, including Novo Nordisk ($125,000), Novartis ($60,000), AbbVie ($50,000), and Gilead Sciences ($50,000).
Fossil fuel companies ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips both gave $100,000 to RSLC. Tech money poured in as well, including donations from Google ($25,000), Uber Technologies ($25,000), PayPal ($25,000), and Amazon ($10,000). Other corporate names, like Bank of America and Best Buy, each donated $25,000 to RSLC. General Motors chipped in $10,000.
Some of those same corporate donors signed the “We Stand for Democracy” letter last month, including Alphabet (Google’s parent company), Bank of America, Best Buy, General Motors, and PayPal.
The RSLC is now encouraging state legislatures to purge voter rolls, change voter registration deadlines, and enact new voter ID requirements, as Documented recently reported.
The Texas state house is currently considering a bill that would close polling locations primarily in Democratic and minority areas. In Harris County, for example, thirteen of the twenty-four House districts — all represented by Democrats — would lose polling stations. Texas isn’t the only state aiming to restrict voting rights. According to a report from the Brennan Center for Justice, “As of March 24, legislators have introduced 361 bills with restrictive provisions in 47 states.”
“Five restrictive bills have already been signed into law,” the report continues. “In addition, at least 55 restrictive bills in 24 states are moving through legislatures: 29 have passed at least one chamber, while another 26 have had some sort of committee action (e.g., a hearing, an amendment, or a committee vote).”
Julian Brookes, a spokesperson for the Brennan Center, said that the “vast majority” of those bills were introduced by Republicans.
Both RAGA and RSLC are due to next report their election filings in July.
Breaking Up With the Chamber
In the wake of the January 6 Capitol insurrection and in the face of ongoing Republican efforts to restrict voting rights, political watchdog Accountable.US has started a new campaign asking companies, including Microsoft, Target, and Salesforce, to disaffiliate from the US Chamber of Commerce, the nation’s preeminent business lobbying group, on the grounds that the Chamber has been bankrolling the GOP’s anti-democratic agenda.
The Chamber’s long history of complicity and enablement of Republican assaults on voting rights is documented in a recent report from Accountable.US. The report notes that in 2010, the Chamber, joined by Republican strategists, “hatched” and funded REDMAP, the notorious GOP redistricting project focused on flipping state legislatures ahead of the 2010 census.
REDMAP was so successful that Republicans picked up nearly seven hundred state legislative seats in 2010, flipping twenty chambers. After that, the project focused its efforts on redrawing congressional and state legislative districts to favor Republican majorities. Through REDMAP, the GOP was able to gerrymander a standing majority in the House that held until 2018, despite losing by 1 million votes in 2012. Even in 2018, in at least three states, the GOP held its congressional majority despite a majority of voters selecting Democrats to represent them.
Beyond REDMAP, the Chamber and its affiliated entities have been major funders of RAGA and RSLC, giving the groups a combined $13.6 million since the 2016 election cycle, based on data from Political MoneyLine. It has also contributed to Republicans who support cracking down on voting rights.
The Chamber is currently waging a campaign against H.R. 1, the For the People Act, which is the Democratic Party’s response to Republican voter suppression laws.