AT&T abandons pledge, makes contributions supporting Republican objectors
After the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, AT&T announced that it was suspending contributions to all 147 Republicans who tried to overturn the election results:
Employees on our Federal PAC Board convened a call today and decided to suspend contributions to members of Congress who voted to object to the certification of Electoral College votes this week.
In February, however, AT&T donated $5,000 to the House Conservatives Fund. The chair of the House Conservatives Fund is Jim Banks (R-IN), who objected to the certification of the Electoral College in January. Banks also signed an amicus brief submitted to the Supreme Court supporting Texas' efforts to throw out the election results in several states. The House Conservatives Fund also serves as the primary fundraising vehicle for the Republican Study Committee (RSC). The overwhelming majority of members of the RSC voted to overturn the election results on January 6. The RSC has pushed false claims that the 2020 election was rife with fraud.
In March, when the donation first became public, AT&T told Popular Information that its policy was still not to donate to members of Congress who objected to certification. AT&T claimed that the House Conservative Fund "assured" the company that its PAC contribution would not support the re-election of Republican objectors.
Our employee PACs continue to adhere to their policy adopted on January 11 of suspending contributions to the re-election campaigns of members of Congress who voted to object to the certification of Electoral College votes. The House Conservative Fund has assured us that none of the employee PAC’s contribution will go toward the re-election of any of those members of Congress.
When Popular Information's reporting was picked up by the Dallas Morning News, AT&T expanded on its commitment. "Any future contributions to multi-candidate PACs will require such consistency with the policy suspending individual contributions," a company spokesperson said.
Six months later, AT&T is charting a very different path. In August, new FEC disclosures reveal, AT&T donated $15,000 each to the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) and National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC). These donations will support the reelection of every Republican objector running for reelection.
Popular Information contacted AT&T and asked whether, as it had pledged in March, it had secured a commitment that none of the funds it donated to the NRCC or NRSC would support Republican objectors. This time, the company did not respond.
59 corporations speak out against Texas abortion ban
Earlier this month, legislators in Texas passed a law that bans abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, making Texas the state with the most restrictive laws in the country. Yesterday, dozens of companies signed a statement, "Don't Ban Equality In Texas," to protest the Texas abortion ban and similar bills that are being considered in other states. An excerpt:
Restricting access to comprehensive reproductive care, including abortion, threatens the health, independence, and economic stability of our workers and customers....
Simply put, policies that restrict reproductive health care go against our values and are bad for business. It impairs our ability to build diverse and inclusive workforce pipelines, recruit top talent across states, and protect the well-being of all the people who keep our businesses thriving day in and out. The future of gender equality hangs in the balance, putting our families, communities, businesses and the economy at risk.
Among the companies that signed the statement are Yelp, Lyft, Patagonia, Capgemini Invent, Box Inc., and Ben & Jerry’s.
“Really the statements are just a vehicle,” Jen Stark, senior director of corporate strategy at the Tara Health Foundation, said in an interview. “But the outcome we seek to achieve is privately or publicly that companies pour some cold water on the fervor within states to advance needless reproductive health restrictions that harm the workforce” Stark is part of the coalition that put together the letter.
The coalition focused on recruiting companies that have a growing footprint in Texas, although many companies with large offices in Texas did not participate.
The coalition ran a similar campaign in 2019 in response to abortion bans in Georgia and other states. That effort included over 180 companies, employing 129,000 workers, that came forward to “stand against policies that hinder people’s health, independence, and ability to fully succeed in the workplace.”
But not all the companies that signed the 2019 letter were signatories on the coalition’s most recent letter.
In contrast to the 2019 letter, which had over 180 signatories, the latest letter only has 59 signatories. Dozens of former signatories are missing, including Slack, Square, H&M, IDEO, Tinder, Warby Parker, and Zoom.
Popular Information contacted these companies to ask if they supported the new statement focused on Texas' law. A Warby Parker spokesperson declined to comment, citing the SEC quiet period. Tinder, a Texas-based company, did not specify if they supported the statement, but shared with Popular Information a memo from its CEO, Shar Dubey, where she called SB 8 “regressive,” “unfair” and a “big step back in women’s rights.” The rest of the companies did not respond to a request for comment.
Meanwhile, Microsoft and Starbucks declined to participate, reports The Wall Street Journal. Both companies have a large presence in Texas. This summer, Microsoft announced it was committing $200 million to build five new data centers in Texas. Starbucks operates over 1,200 stores in Texas, according to data from ScrapHero.
Big tech companies stay silent
Big tech companies are conspicuously absent from the “Don’t Ban Equality” statement. Many prominent technology firms have large offices based in Texas and thousands of employees impacted by the law.
Earlier this week, Popular Information reported that Apple is soon to be Texas’ largest employer, with a $1 billion campus in Austin set to open next year. Apple did not sign the statement. A report in the New York Times said its silence is contributing to “employee unrest.”
Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co., commonly known as HP, is moving its global headquarters to Spring, Texas from San Jose, California, set to open in early 2022, but did not sign the statement. Earlier this month, HP told Reuters: “[HP] encourages our team members to engage in the political process where they live and work and make their voices heard through advocacy and at the voting booth.”
Other companies that did not sign the statement but have large presences in Texas include IBM and Dell, which both have over 10,000 employees in Texas.
Other major technology companies missing from the list include CharterCommunications, Comcast, and AT&T. Earlier this month, Popular Information identified these three companies as the top corporate donors to the sponsors of Texas' abortion ban. Collectively, the three companies have donated over $600,000 to the sponsors of Texas' abortion ban since 2018.