President Biden says he would “strongly support”as a reprimand for severe new electoral restrictions in the state. The president said on ESPN Wednesday night that the curbs “just aren’t right”.
“This is Jim Crow about steroids, what they are doing in Georgia and 40 other states,” he said. “What it is about – imagine you are passing a law that says you cannot provide water or food to anyone in line to vote. Can’t do that. Come on? Or do you close a polling station at 5 a.m. when working people are getting out?
“This is about preventing working and normal people I grew up with from being able to vote. Come on.”
Mr Biden’s testimony came as a backlash against the new borders was mounting.
Some of Georgia’s most prominent corporate leaders began to criticize the sweeping new law more violently on Wednesday, recognizing the concerns of civil rights activists, black clergy and black business leaders who said the measure would target non-white voters and threaten the democratic process.
Delta and Coca-Cola executives turned to earlier, more ambiguous statements and called the law “unacceptable”. This opened an unusual chasm with Republican leaders who campaigned for legislation and usually had a comfortable relationship with the state’s business community.
But the legislature stated that they were not backing down. The Republicans in the Georgia House of Representatives voted late Wednesday to withdraw a tens of millions of dollars’ worth of tax breaks a year from Delta. While this was done symbolically when the Senate did not take the measure before the adjournment of its annual session, it was a reminder of the avenues politicians could take.
Georgia’s business lobby, home to 18 Fortune 500 companies, has made a significant impact on state policy. Civil rights activists accused influential executives of failing to advance the new law, which has become a focal point of the nationwide party-political struggle for the right to vote, and at the national level there is mounting pressure on corporate titans to defend the suffrage more explicitly and join the Republican Oppose efforts in states that might follow Georgia’s leadership. The latest statements by Delta and Coca-Cola could push Georgia’s other marquee brands, including UPS and Home Depot, to take a stronger position.
UPS and Home Depot still haven’t publicly spoken out against the law.
“Delta’s statement is finally telling the truth – even if it’s late,” said Nsé Ufot of the New Georgia Project, which has launched an advertising campaign for large companies.
The new law has sparked calls for boycotts at large Georgia-based corporations
After Republican Governor Brian Kemp signed it last week, Delta issued a statement promoting parts of the law like the extended weekend vote. However, he said, “We understand that concerns about other regulations remain … and work on this important effort continues.”
Delta and Coca-Cola are becoming more powerful
CEO Ed Bastian was blunt in a memo sent to employees on Wednesday.
“The entire rationale for this bill was based on a lie: There was widespread electoral fraud in Georgia in the 2020 elections. That’s just not true, “wrote Bastian, alluding to the false claims made by former President Trump that he lost to fraud. “Unfortunately, states across the country are using this excuse trying to pass similar laws to restrict voting rights.”
Bastian said Delta has joined other major Atlanta corporations to work closely with elected officials from both parties in an attempt to get some of the most egregious measures out of the bill. We have had some success in removing the most oppressive tactics that some suggested. “
But he said, “I need to make it clear that the final calculation is unacceptable and does not match Delta’s values.”
Coca-Cola boss James Quincey later spoke about CNBC, calling the legislation “a step backwards”.
“It does not promote the principles that we advocated in Georgia regarding wide access to voting, the convenience of voters and ensuring electoral integrity,” he said. “This legislation is wrong and needs to be fixed.”
Kemp insisted that the law was misrepresented. He accused companies of ignoring their role in their development.
“Throughout the legislative process, we have spoken directly to Delta officials several times,” the governor said in a statement. “Today’s statement … is in stark contrast to our conversations with the company, ignoring the content of the new law and unfortunately continues to spread the same false attacks repeated by partisan activists.”
Perhaps one of the reasons some of these companies’ viewpoints matter is because Coca-Cola, Delta, and Home Depot have boards of directors that are more diverse than the average S&P 500 company. Four out of 15 UPS board members are black people, or nearly 30%. A recent study by recruiting firm Spencer Stuart found that the largest 200 companies in the S&P 500 stock index had an average of 10% of their board members black. Latino directors made up another 4%.
For Coca-Cola, three of the 12 board members, or 25%, are black people, while Delta and Home Depot have two out of 12 or 17% different board members.
The pressure is growing
Suffrage groups continued to fight the legislation, criticizing corporate actors for not trying to block it altogether.
Ufot accused Bastian of his timing and alluded to discussions “with managers and employees of the Black Community” late in the process. She also noted the upcoming demands by advocates that Delta and other companies no longer use their political action committees to support lawmakers who support election restrictions.
Bastian’s memo did not address the matter. Quincey noted on CNBC that Coca-Cola had suspended its PAC activities prior to Georgia’s action and would consider politicians’ position on the right to vote as part of future contributions.
Also on Wednesday dozens of black business leaders from across the country, including Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier and former American Express CEO Kenneth Chenault, published a joint letter in the New York Times urging American companies to vigorously engage in issues of racial justice.
“The reality is that companies have been silent on this issue, and that’s why we said action needed to be taken,” Chenault told CBS This Morning on Wednesday.
Black activists, meanwhile, recalled that many US companies took a public position last summer amid national demonstrations against systemic racism and police violence.
Bishop Reginald Jackson, who heads more than 400 African Methodist Episcopal Churches in Georgia, said too many corporate leaders had “remained silent” about electoral laws. He urged his 90,000 parishioners to boycott Delta, Coca-Cola and other big brands.
“This is not just a problem or a problem in Georgia. It’s a national problem that we believe threatens our democracy, ”Jackson said.
Business analysts say dynamics are challenging for companies.
“Delta clearly felt a lot of heat for his previous statement. Delta’s problem now is credibility, ”said Henry Harteveldt, an analyst for the San Francisco travel industry. “Will people believe future statements or actions by Delta regarding voting rights or social justice?”
Civil rights groups have filed federal lawsuits to repeal Georgian law. Otherwise, they have focused on Washington, where the Democrats are pushing a major federal overhaul of the electoral law that could effectively override many changes passed in Georgia that are being considered elsewhere. Lawyers want business leaders like Bastian and Quincey to help.