Corporations face GOP blowback for criticizing Georgia voting law

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Corporations and CEOs are facing backlash after renouncing Georgia’s new voting reform law.

“You don’t bite the hand that feeds you,” declared Georgia House Speaker David Ralston as Republicans begin to push back on corporations that have come out against Georgia’s new voting law.

Under pressure from Democrats to denounce the new legislation, some corporations have begun wading further into the political arena, and many on the Right are not pleased.

Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines initially issued a statement praising aspects of the law, including the requirement for counties to allow early voting on Saturdays, but after a torrent of criticism for the law from the Left, CEO Ed Bastian walked back those remarks in a memo to employees and branded the law “unacceptable.”

SORTING FACT FROM FICTION IN GEORGIA VOTING LAW DEBATE

Corporate giant Coca-Cola also panned the legislation.

Last month protesters held a “ die-in” (which features demonstrators lying on their backs in defiance) at Atlanta’s World of Coca-Cola in an effort to pressure the soft-drink company and other Georgia-based corporations to oppose the bill. Coca-Cola CEO and Chairman James Quincey said his company’s focus is on “supporting federal legislation that protects voting access and addresses voter suppression across the country.”

“We all have a duty to protect everyone’s right to vote, and we will continue to stand up for what is right in Georgia and across the U.S.,” he said.

Sen. Marco Rubio tore into the CEO’s remarks and accused the companies of being “woke corporate hypocrites.” The lawmaker highlighted that Delta has not condemned China’s treatment of Uyghur Muslims. Delta declares itself as “the most Chinese-friendly U.S. airline.”

“I look forward to that letter saying genocide does not reflect the values of Delta Airlines,” the Florida Republican said. “Of course they’re not going to send that letter, nor is Coca-Cola, nor is any of these other corporations that are out there proving to the world how woke they because they are woke, corporate hypocrites.”

Sen. Tom Cotton also hit back at the airline and, on Thursday, pointed out Delta’s about-face on the issue. The Arkansas Republican posted a photo of the airline’s first statement on the matter, which was “praising the same law that Delta is now lying about.”

“The legislation signed this week improved considerably during the legislative process, and expands weekend voting, codifies Sunday voting and protects a voters ability to cast an absentee ballot without providing a reason,” Delta’s initial position on the bill read.

The Wall Street Journal’s conservative editorial board published a full-throated denunciation of the CEOs who have condemned the legislation as “uninformed at best or cowardly at worst.” The editorial board said that the debate surrounding the law has “become a stew of falsehood, propaganda and panic” and that corporations are bowing to the “woke mob.”

“CEOs may think there’s no downside to hopping on a bandwagon that insinuates that Georgia’s GOP leaders are inveterate racists,” the board wrote. “They and their companies may pay the price when the woke mob decides to turn on them and they need GOP protection.”

The backlash to the companies is not all bark but actually might have some bite. Republicans in the Georgia House narrowly passed an amendment revoking a tax break on jet fuel for the state’s largest private employer.

Coca-Cola and Delta are not alone in taking stands against the law. Citigroup’s head of global public affairs said the multinational company “strongly oppose efforts to undermine the ability of Americans to avail themselves” of the right to vote. Pharmaceutical giant Merck put out a statement on the matter, and Microsoft president Brad Smith wrote a lengthy blog post voicing concerns about various aspects of the legislation.

Ken Frazier, CEO of pharmaceutical giant Merck, said: “Free and fair access to the ballot was never a partisan issue. It’s a fundamental constitutional right.”

In addition to corporations, the Hollywood and sports world has also gotten in on the action.

Actor Mark Hamill and director James Mangold have said they support a filming boycott in Georgia over the law, and Tony Clark, the executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, has raised the prospect of moving the MLB’s All-Star game out of Atlanta.

The bill itself, which was recently signed into law by Gov. Brian Kemp, has also been condemned by President Joe Biden, who called it “Jim Crow on steroids,” a reference to the state and local laws that enforced segregation until they were overturned in 1965.

The law sets 5 p.m. as the earliest a polling place can close, although it also gives polling places the discretion to remain open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. during early voting, and it reduces the number of allowed drop boxes (which were used for the first time in 2020).

Democrats took umbrage with a provision making it illegal to provide voters with money, gifts, food, or water within 150 feet of a polling location, although, according to the legislation, election workers can still provide food and water at unmanned stations.

Kemp has brushed off the corporate pressure that has built up against the bill and told CNBC that he is “glad to deal” with backlash from the companies.

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“If they want to have a debate about the merits and the facts of the bill, then we should do that,” the governor said.

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