U.S. CEOs discuss coordinated response to voting laws

US CEOs unite to coordinate their responses to controversial new voting legislation, after individual companies have been criticized for allowing voter suppression or engaging in hypocritical “awakening capitalism.”

Defying pressure from Republicans to stay out of politics, many CEOs joined a weekend video call to discuss bills introduced in 47 states, which the Brennan Center for Justice said would limit the access to vote.

Several executives suggested withhold donations lawmakers supporting such legislation or reconsidering investments in states that pass restrictive laws, participants said on Saturday afternoon’s call.

As the discussion stuck to general principles rather than detailed pledges of action, plans were forming on Sunday for CEOs to sign a new statement of support for wider election access early this week. , signaling a growing urgency for U.S. businesses. advocacy on the right to vote.

Two prominent black leaders – Ken Frazier, CEO of Merck, and Ken Chenault, former chief from American Express – led much of Saturday’s discussion and hosted a public call 72 black top executives last month so their peers don’t “stay on the sidelines”

Dan Schulman, chief executive of PayPal, said he would lend his name to a new declaration organized by the Black Economic Alliance.

“I think it is a fundamental democratic and non-partisan issue that all those who have the right to vote can do so in a non-discriminatory way,” he said.

Activists last month accused Atlanta-based companies including Coca-Cola, Delta Air Lines and UPS of doing too little publicly to oppose Republican legislation in Georgia that places restrictions on early voting and voting. by mail, which critics say will disproportionately deter black voters. .

The CEOs of Coca-Cola and Delta were among those to condemn Georgian legislation after its passage.

Soon after, however, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell led a backlash from top Republicans, accusing CEOs of “economic blackmail” and advising them to “stay out of politics.”

“From election law and environmentalism to sweeping social programs and the Second Amendment, parts of the private sector continue to behave like a woken parallel government,” McConnell said.

Mike Ward, vice chairman of the Civic Alliance, a bipartisan business group pushing for greater voter turnout, said he saw no one on the video call “wavering” in response to the crackdown republican.

“What I found most interesting is the really broad, if not universal, support not only for democracy, but also for businesses that defend democracy,” he said.

“The spectrum of political opinion and industries has been unified in voices for greater electoral fairness and better access,” said Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, the Yale leadership professor who helped convene the appeal, in a statement. .

Other attendees said the call underscored the need for companies to coordinate their responses and agree on a set of non-partisan principles rather than being seen as a particular state or lobbying for a proposal. federal legislation.

“Without a thriving democracy, we cannot have a prosperous and secure capitalism,” said Lynn Forester de Rothschild, founder of the Coalition for Inclusive Capitalism, who described protecting voting rights as a patriotic duty of leaders. business.

The poll suggested public support for wider access to the ballot. In Saturday’s call, Morning Consult pollsters presented findings that most Democrats and a plurality of Republicans agree that businesses should support legislation focused on improving voting access.

Bennett Freeman, the corporate human rights adviser on the call, said the voting rights represented “the perfect convergence” of two issues that companies voted on last year: racial fairness after George Floyd’s death and the peaceful transfer of power at the time of elections.

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