Whether it's an "unintended" consequence or not hardly matters:
State legislators across the country who have pushed for new voting restrictions, and also seized on former President Donald Trump's baseless claims of election fraud, have reaped more than $50 million in corporate donations in recent years, according to a new report by Public Citizen, a Washington-based government watchdog group.
Telecom giant AT&T was the most prolific, donating over $800,000 since 2015 to authors of proposed restrictions, cosponsors of such measures, or those who voted in favor of the bills, the report found. Other top donors during the same period include Comcast, Philip Morris, United Health, Walmart, Verizon, General Motors and Pfizer.
The mentality behind these donations is the same problem that put Trump in office for four years: If you will accomplish what I need to be done, I don't care what else you do, however cruel, inhuman, or undemocratic. Republicans (especially those in North Carolina) have cleverly carved themselves a niche, catering to the desires of wealthy business execs (see doctors subjugating nurse practitioners), which gives them the power to wage their ugly culture wars on minorities and the poor, not to mention LGBTQ+ folks. And it's long past time we ignored this factor:
The money may not have been given with voting laws in mind, but it nonetheless helped cement Republican control in statehouses where many of the prohibitive measures are now moving forward.
"Intent" is a minuscule factor when compared to effect. When you give money to a politician, you own everything that politician does, from the good to the horrific.
What we're seeing in Georgia, with some very powerful corporate bodies pushing back on the state's voter suppression law, is heartening to a certain extent. But when you're dealing with money in politics, that's a two-edged sword:
More than 120 companies detailed in the report previously said they would rethink their donations to members of Congress who, acting on the same falsehoods as the state lawmakers, objected to the certification of President Joe Biden's win following the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol by Trump supporters.
The tension is most evident now in Georgia, where a far-reaching new voting law has drawn an intense national scrutiny, prompting the criticism from Delta and Coca-Cola. On Friday, MLB announced it would no longer host the 2021 All-Star Game in Atlanta.
Yet it's unclear whether this aggressive new posture will extend to corporate campaign donation practices. And early indicators show there is risk.
Georgia's Republican-controlled House voted to strip Delta of a tax break worth tens of millions of dollars annually for their criticism of the new law, though the action was rendered moot after the GOP Senate failed to take it up before the legislative session adjourned.
Atlanta (Hartsfield-Jackson) airport is Delta's primary hub (in the country, not just the South). It has gates in all 7 concourses. Which may be why this bill died in the Georgia Senate. But whatever the case, if we want to improve policy at the state level, we should probably focus more pressure on these corporations than Republican elected officials. Get enough shareholders to raise hell, and that waterfall of money might turn into a trickle.