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Sanders Says GOP Corporate Boycott Is Distraction From Voter Suppression Efforts

Sanders points out that the GOP’s complaints are spurious as they’ve given corporations tax break after tax break.

Sen. Bernie Sanders attends a confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill on January 27, 2021, in Washington, D.C.

As Republicans criticize large corporations like Coca-Cola and Delta Air Lines for their opposition to the recent Georgia voter suppression law, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) has called out the Republicans’ criticisms as “extraordinary” and says that they’re attempting to distract the public from their war on voting.

Sanders, speaking to MSNBC’s Chris Hayes on Monday, pointed out the hypocrisy of Republicans like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) suddenly and publicly criticizing corporations now that they’re not on his side of the voter suppression issue.

“Imagine that, after a trillion dollars of tax breaks for large corporations, lowering the corporate tax rate, after protecting the pharmaceutical industry for charging us, by far, the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs,” said Sanders, “Mitch McConnell and his friends are very upset that some corporations are now saying that it is an outrage that, in Georgia, they are trying to destroy Democracy.”

Sanders went on to say that the Republicans’ media circus over the corporations’ opposition to their bill is “nothing more than a deflection.” The Vermont senator said that Republicans like McConnell are simply trying to distract the public from the fact that the party has launched a coordinated effort across the country to suppress votes, especially those of people of color and poor people.

Organizations like Major League Baseball and many companies like Patagonia have denounced the new elections bill in Georgia, which makes it harder for people to vote and gives politicians more control over whose votes count. This has caused Republican leaders to begin speaking out against corporations and calling for boycotts of companies, even as they bear a large part of the responsibility for corporations’ continued outsized influence over American politics.

McConnell evidently thinks that the corporations are becoming too “woke” — but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t keep donating to the Republican Party. On Tuesday, McConnell said in a press conference, “my warning to corporate America is to stay out of politics,” but quickly added, “I’m not talking about political contributions.”

McConnell went on, saying that corporations donating to political action committees is “appropriate” but that they shouldn’t take a stance on political issues.

However, the two actions are inseparable — when a corporation donates to a politician or political party, they are implicitly supporting the views and goals of that party. Corporations had acknowledged as such when many of them announced they would be halting donations to Republicans who voted to overturn the results of the presidential election, even though several of them have already broken their pledges.

And, while corporations are publicly making statements opposing the Georgia law, some like Coca-Cola and Delta have previously either been supportive of or neutral toward the law. Meanwhile, corporations have funneled tens of millions to Republicans behind the attempts to suppress votes in Georgia and elsewhere across the country, so their public about-face isn’t likely to result in an actual reckoning.

It’s unlikely that Republicans’ boycotts of major brands will last long either — after all, as McConnell said, they need the cash from these companies in order to win elections and fight against progressive policy proposals. Over the years, Republicans have launched boycotts on a wide range of large companies: Walmart, Target, Netflix and Starbucks, among many others, but most of them have been fleeting.

McConnell has been a particular friend to corporations over the years, notably in his full-throated support of Citizens United. “If Mitch McConnell wants corporations to ‘stay out of politics’,” tweeted advocacy group Public Citizen, “he is going to be furious when he finds out about Citizens United.”

Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission was a landmark 2010 Supreme Court decision that gave corporations and other groups the power to spend unlimited money on influencing elections. The decision has given wealthy individuals and corporations huge amounts of sway over elections.

Opinions on how much money should be allowed to flow into politics is becoming a point of contention between Republicans and Democrats. Democrats have been pushing to get money out of politics via the election-reforming For the People Act. Republicans like McConnell, meanwhile, have long fought to keep money in politics — in part to pad their own pockets.

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