Sun Editorial:

Corporate America needs to take up mantle of For the People Act passage


Sue Ogrocki / AP

In this Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020, file photo, signage is pictured at a Walmart store in Oklahoma City.

Corporate America deserves some respect for speaking out against the Republican Party’s voter suppression efforts in Georgia, Texas and elsewhere, but those after-the-fact condemnations should be a starting point and not the companies’ last word on the subject.

The major businesses that came out against the restrictions — some 200 and counting, including such heavy hitters as Dow, Twitter and HP — need to take a powerful and concrete next step by vocally and financially supporting the congressional For the People Act.

The national legislation would provide a bulwark against the GOP’s campaign to disempower minority voters, which has generated more than 250 voting-restriction bills in 43 states this year.

In place of those state-by-state assaults, the For the People Act would establish federal protections for voting access and make voting more convenient while also hardening election security and establishing important controls over gerrymandering and campaign financing. The House passed the legislation last month, but the Senate has yet to vote on its version.

“It would stop the new wave of voter suppression cold,” Michael Waldman, president of the Brennan Center for Justice voting-advocacy organization, said in testimony to Congress. “It stops it in its tracks, and Congress has the power, the right, the authority — constitutionally and legally — to do this.”

Enter corporate America, which stands as a major force to help bring the congressional act to reality.

These companies should use their massive lobbying power to urge senators to pass their version of the bill. Meanwhile, they should make it known to the public and to politicians that the nation’s companies are unified in expanding voting access rather than limiting it, and that they’ll bring the might of America’s corporations to bear in the fight against voter suppression.

Companies risk backlash among Republican extremists, but they have nothing to apologize for — defending and expanding the vote is as American as it gets. Providing equal access to the ballot box benefits voters and corporations alike, by giving all communities a voice to protect their economic interests and address the social injustices and income inequality that leave far too many Americans disadvantaged.

Criticizing laws after their passage is one thing, but the reality is that by then it’s too late to change them barring litigation. Actively joining Americans in fighting to expand access to the vote is a very different thing.

We strongly urge companies to put their power behind this cause, and for corporate American’s biggest players to take the lead. Where are you, Amazon? Where are you, Apple? How about JP Morgan, Ford, AT&T, Bank of America, General Motors, Berkshire Hathaway?

It’s time for all of you to stand up for American democracy by protecting our foundational right to vote.

It’s not enough to decry enacted laws as voter suppression — that’s just stating the obvious. And while Major League Baseball took a principled stand in moving the All-Star Game and 2021 draft out of Atlanta in protest of Georgia’s new laws, such actions aren’t nearly as powerful and effective as taking up the charge on the For the People Act would be.

On a related front, the GOP’s racism-fueled attacks on the vote also scream out the need for corporations to change their policies on campaign contributions, which are fueling the problem. As shown in a new report by the prominent government watchdog group Public Citizen, corporations have funneled some $50 million in campaign funds in recent years to Republicans involved in voter-suppression legislation, including $22 million in the 2020 campaign cycle. Top contributors included AT&T, Comcast, Philip Morris USA, Walmart, Verizon and GM, but Public Citizen found that at least 81 Fortune 100 companies and nearly half of the Fortune 500 companies also supported backers of voting restrictions.

As reported by The Associated Press, the companies didn’t necessarily provide those contributions with voter laws in mind, but their infusion of funds did help Republicans gain control of legislatures in states where restrictive laws have taken hold.

In state-level races where candidates need far less funding than their counterparts at the national level, those corporate donations can make a major difference.

“It really is corporate America, as a whole, that is funding these politicians,” Mike Tanglis, one of the authors of the report, said to the AP. “It seems many are trying to hide under a rock and hope that this issue passes.”

Indeed, it’s time for America’s corporate leaders to put their money where their mouth is, and stop enabling the Republican politicians who they’re now criticizing. Simultaneously, they should redirect their clout into protecting the vote by going all-in in support of the For the People Act.

Words are words, but defending the vote requires action.