New York Times reporter Ephrat Livni, who reports for the paper’s Dealbook business newsletter, dipped into hyper-partisan anti-Republican politicking in Monday’s print edition, “Taking Both Sides on Issues Like Voting Rights Can Cost Corporations – Scrutiny Over Donations That Conflict With Pledges.”
The online subhead: “Investors are on alert for companies that take one position and make donations that support another.” In other words, they pledge allegiance to “social justice” but stubbornly make some donations to Republicans.
The first portion of the 1,500-word behemoth cheered on shareholder activism for the environment and social movements, which is on the upswing on the left. The second half, rather amazingly, was devoted to more or less chiding corporations for donating any money to Republicans. Livni painted companies as hypocrites for signing on to “social justice” issues like “voting rights,” while – gasp! – continuing to donate some portion of their funds to one of the country’s two major parties:
When it comes to politics, companies often say one thing publicly while their money says another. They explain the contradiction between principled-sounding statements on issues like social justice and donations to political groups that take the opposite position by saying that they give to both parties or that they don’t control how funds are used.
But companies have never faced as much scrutiny over political spending as they do now. And the cost of perceived hypocrisy is rising beyond social media storms, bad P.R. and potential consumer boycotts.
Investors are battling with corporate boards, filing shareholder resolutions that demand more transparency and accountability about political donations. Increasingly, they’re winning.
Livni had to grossly exaggerate Republican legislation to “restrict ballot access.”
Republican legislators in nearly every state have introduced bills that restrict ballot access. In response, hundreds of companies have signed statements opposing “any” voting restrictions. These statements have been organized in part by the Black Economic Alliance at the national level and local business coalitions in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Texas, Florida and elsewhere.
Voting is the basic right underlying democracy and a healthy business environment, the companies say. Yet many have also donated substantially to Republican groups that helped elect the politicians now proposing and advancing laws that restrict voting rights.
The accompanying print-edition illustration drove the agenda home: two arrows pointing in opposite ways, the left arrow showing a protest sign “Stop Voter Suppression,” the other a sheaf of $100 bills.
An analysis by the Center for Political Accountability traced tens of millions of dollars of donations from public companies in the past two election cycles to the Republican State Leadership Committee and Republican Governors Association, key groups that work to elect candidates at the state level, where much of the action on voting rights is now taking place. Of those companies, Amazon, Bank of America, Best Buy, Cisco, Citigroup, Facebook, General Motors, Microsoft and Wells Fargo each gave more than $100,000 and later signed statements opposing voting restrictions.
If corporations keep making donations to these groups, the businesses will be knowingly paying to re-elect those who push laws that companies say undermine democracy.
With many Republican state legislators and governors running for re-election in 2022 -- including Governors Ron DeSantis in Florida and Brian Kemp in Georgia, who both recently signed laws restricting voting -- will the companies that donated in the past do the same now? Most won’t say on the record, and in off-cycle years 527 groups aren’t required to disclose their donations until July.
The Times has a long history of trying to discourage or legally prevent nonprofits and now corporations from giving to the Republican Party. Throughout the 2010-2012 period especially, Times' investigative reporters not so subtly tried to cajole the IRS and the Federal Election Commission into looking into the donations and campaign ads of the Tea Party and other Republican-friendly groups.