Hundreds of CEOs, celebrities, corporations join forces to oppose ‘discriminatory’ voting legislation

Dozens of companies, including Amazon, Google, Starbucks and Netflix, joined hundreds of business leaders, celebrities, and other prominent names to sign a new statement opposing “any discriminatory legislation” that would restrict ballot access.

The statement, appearing Wednesday as advertisements in The New York Times and The Washington Post, is the latest and largest mobilization by corporate America against restrictive voting legislation advanced by Republicans around the country.

“We stand for democracy,” the statement, stretched across two full pages, reads. “We all should feel a responsibility to defend the right to vote and to oppose any discriminatory legislation or measures that restrict or prevent any eligible voter from having an equal and fair opportunity to cast a ballot.”

In addition to companies and their leaders, the statement’s signatories includes celebrities, major law-firms, and nonprofits. The Times first reported the statement.

Target, Bank of America, Apple, Cisco, Berkshire Partners, American Express and Wells Fargo were among dozens of other corporations that signed on, while George Clooney, Paula Abdul, Michael Bloomberg, Mark Ruffalo, Demi Lovato, Brian Cornell, chair and CEO of Target, and Warren Buffett were among hundreds of individuals. Josh Kushner, brother to Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner and founder of venture capital firm Thrive Capital, also signed the letter.

The show of force comes as Republicans across the country work to advance hundreds of restrictions, changes that voting rights advocates and civil rights groups argue would disproportionately affect voters of color. Republicans say they must restore trust in American elections, even as they continue to cast doubt on the integrity of the election former President Donald Trump lost. By all accounts, the 2020 election was secure and its results accurate. Nonetheless, there are more than 350 restrictive election bills being considered in 47 state legislatures, according to the nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice at New York University, which has been tracking the legislation.

“I think it’s an unquestionable show of unity from the business community that democracy is a priority,” said Mike Ward, a co-founder of the Civic Alliance, a nonpartisan group that encourages civic participation from businesses.

Ward said he helped do outreach to corporations about signing the letter.

“We did not get a lot of no’s,” he told NBC News.

The two-page spread in today’s New York Times and Washington Post, with hundreds of corporations, individuals, celebs, and other prominent figures opposing voting restrictions pic.twitter.com/YJC3L07TQt

— Jane C. Timm (@janestreet) April 14, 2021

NBC News previously reported that more than a dozen major law firms — including one of the statement’s signatories, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison of New York — are planning a multi-year commitment to fight any restrictions that pass.

Brad Karp, chairman of Paul, Weiss, said the effort would send “SWAT teams” of private practice attorneys into states to aid the advocates and lawyers who typically file legal action.

Republicans have pushed back against such corporate pressure.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., warned corporate America to “stay out of politics” before softening his stance a day later, saying: “I didn’t say that very artfully yesterday. They’re certainly entitled to be involved in politics. They are. My principal complaint is they didn’t read the darn bill,” referring to Georgia’s recently enacted law.

Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., responded to the show of corporate unity in a statement Wednesday.

“’Stakeholder Capitalism’ produces a ready-made excuse for managers who play politician at the expense of the company’s true owners—its shareholders,” he said, referring to the idea that companies should serve the interests of not just their shareholders, but their customers, suppliers and communities.

Image: Jane TimmJane C. Timm

Jane C. Timm is a political reporter for NBC News.

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