Corporations Donated $164,000 to Anti-Voting Rights Senators Despite Pledges

Despite pledging that they would fight to protect voting rights, major corporations like Amazon and Facebook have given $164,000 to Senate Republicans in 2021 so far — even though the party has made it a major priority to block voting rights advancement.

According to a report by the government watchdog Accountable.US, eight major corporations have donated to Senate Republicans, giving tens of thousands of dollars over the course of this year. In July, those same corporations signed a letter pledging to support expanding election access, specifically citing the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act that Senate Republicans shot down last week.

For months, Republicans have vocally opposed the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, disingenuously claiming that the expansions to the Voting Rights Act, which are aimed at reducing voter suppression for historically disenfranchised groups, are a violation of states’ rights.

The bill, which was passed by the House in August, would place restrictions on jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination in elections, mandating that they gain approval from the Justice Department if they want to change their election rules.The Senate’s rejection of the bill comes in a contentious year for voting rights, as Republicans across the country have been introducing and passing laws to make it harder to vote as an extreme reaction to the 2020 election.

The letter, which is dated July 14 and signed by hundreds of businesses, claims to stand against those efforts. “[T]he undersigned group of U.S. employers urges Congress to address these problems through legislation amending the Voting Rights Act of 1965,” the letter reads. “Last Congress, the House of Representatives passed the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. We support the ongoing work of both the House and the Senate to enact legislation amending the Voting Rights Act this Congress.”

By donating to Republicans who oppose strengthening voting access, corporations directly undermine the letter’s claims. Target, which signed the letter, has donated $32,000 to Senate Republicans; Dell, also a signatory, has donated $38,500. Meanwhile, Amazon and Facebook both donated over $20,000, and Microsoft and Boston Scientific have donated more than $15,000 each.

The report found that the most common recipient of donations was Sen. John Thune (R-South Dakota), minority whip for the GOP. Thune received thousands of dollars in donations from Boston Scientific, Dell, Target, Intel, Amazon and Microsoft. It’s unclear what the donations are for, since federal filing guidelines don’t require such information to be divulged, but empowering the prominent Republican stands directly against the companies’ stated goals.

Thune has consistently fallen in step with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) and his opposition to the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. Earlier this year, the South Dakota lawmaker delivered a speech claiming that the Democrats’ marquee voting rights bill, then known as the For the People Act or H.R. 1, was a “power-grab” by Democrats. In reality, the bill would massively expand voting access, with the goal of driving out dark money’s influence in politics and making it easier for everyone to cast a ballot.

Though Republicans have come up with a myriad of excuses for their opposition to voting rights advancement, some lawmakers have made the motivation behind the nationwide push for voter suppression explicitly clear: the party wants less people to vote. Even a so-called compromise bill from right-wing Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin (West Virginia) failed to garner any Republican support; lawmakers have still yet to find any compromise that would please the party’s senators.

This is not the first time corporations have broken pledges with regard to political donations. After the January 6 attack on the Capitol, 147 Republicans voted against the certification of the election results, and many companies made pledges to stop donating to those Republicans or stop political donations altogether. But so far, four dozen companies that pledged to suspend donations have broken those promises, including major corporations like Facebook and Target, according to Popular Information.

While making pledges and signing letters is an easy way to receive positive press or praise from the public, companies are ultimately looking out for their bottom line — and as long as Republicans oppose measures like raising corporate income taxes, the GOP and corporations will maintain a mutually beneficial relationship at the cost of the public.