The relationship has been mutually beneficial. While both of America’s mainstream political parties are enriched – and influenced – by corporate America’s free-spending largess, Republicans have built their core brand on the type of free market, pro-business policies that are celebrated in the nation’s C-Suites.
But in recent months, both the GOP and Big Business have used voting rights controversies and cultural issues as a cudgel against one another. When a number of companies, including Coca-Cola, Major League Baseball, and Delta Airlines denounced Georgia’s new voting law, Republicans pushed back. Earlier this week, Mitch McConnell denounced companies that act like a “woke parallel government” and warned them “to stay out of politics.”
But talk is cheap.
McConnell’s threat is particularly mealymouthed – he was the lead plaintiff in a 2002 lawsuit that challenged a law limiting corporate donations to political organizations. He lost. But in 2011, he said the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling – which facilitated a massive increase in corporate donations to political campaigns – was about “leveling the playing field,” between corporations and media companies.
Corporate America perhaps senses the hollowness of McConnell’s rhetoric – or boycotts pushed by former president Donald Trump. In a letter to shareholders on Wednesday, JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon said businesses should act like a “responsible community citizen.”
Yet, last month Dimon fought a tax increase that might fund the type of programs a “responsible community citizen” supports.
Other highlights in the GOP-Big Business rift:
- Several of America’s largest companies, including WalMart, Facebook, Dow, AT&T, Google, and Marriott, announced that they would suspend donations to politicians who objected to the certification of the 2020 presidential election. All such politicians are Republicans.
- Amazon founder Jeff Bezos announced he was in favor of increased corporate taxes – a defeat for GOP opposition to President Biden’s infrastructure plan.
- Republicans Senators Mike Lee and Josh Hawley proposed terminating Major League Baseball’s century-old antitrust exemption, which classifies MLB as a sport and not a business. This follows Major League Baseball’s decision to move its All-Star Game out of Georgia.
- Similarly, Republican Governor Greg Abbott, of Texas, refused to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at the Ranger’s home opener.
- Lawmakers in Florida – with the support of GOP governor Ron DeSantis – proposed legislation that would punish big tech for “suppressing conservative voices.”
- Senator Rand Paul – echoing Trump – called for a boycott of Coca-Cola after they denounced the new Georgia legislation.
Whether the war of words between the GOP and large corporations is more than skin deep remains to be seen. Writing in The Atlantic, Adam Serwer offers the following analysis:
Putting out statements supporting Black Lives Matter or adorning their logos with pride colors is very easy for big corporations, but such gestures do not signal a commitment to fair wages, safe working conditions, or a willingness to pay their share in taxes, let alone racial egalitarianism in all but the most cosmetic sense. They are merely brand management. “Woke capital” does not actually exist, only capital—and its interests remain the same as they have always been.