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Corporations send large donations to GOP group behind abortion bans and voter suppression
In 2021, Republican-controlled state legislatures imposed a bevy of radical policies on millions of Americans. This was especially pronounced in two areas: abortion and voting rights.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, 2021 was "the worst year for abortion rights in half a century." Overall, "108 abortion restrictions had been enacted in 19 states" with Republican-controlled legislatures. This included a severe ban in Texas where abortion is banned after six weeks — before many women know they are pregnant — and enforced through a system of vigilante justice.
Similarly, according to the Brennan Center, in 2021 "the state legislative push to restrict access to voting was not only aggressive — it was also successful." 19 states with Republican-controlled legislatures "passed 34 laws restricting access to voting." Of all the laws to restrict voting passed in the last decade, one-third were passed last year. The new laws, inspired by Trump's lies about voter fraud, restrict mail-in voting, limit drop boxes, and reduce the number of hours available for early voting.
None of this would be possible without the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC).
The RSLC bills itself as "the largest organization of Republican state leaders in the country" that helps "deliver wins for Republican state legislators." It helps Republicans gain control of state legislatures through direct financial support, research assistance, campaign strategy, and policy development. The group says that it "consistently delivered positive results by targeting national resources to support state races" and takes credit for the fact that "Republicans currently hold majorities in 61 of 99 state legislative chambers."
Nevertheless, numerous corporations that publicly declare their commitment to women's equality and voting rights donated large sums to the RSLC in 2021. The information was buried in a 10,055 page PDF that the RSLC filed with the IRS on Monday.
Google, for example, presents itself as a champion of women. The company says that it is "striving for a future where there is equity across the globe, equal opportunities for success in every field, and where women are safe online and in the physical world."
Google has also been outspoken about its support for voting rights. It was a corporate signatory to an open letter published on April 14, 2021 by the Black Economic Alliance. As a signatory, Google said it opposed "the 360+ state bills pending in 47 states that contain discriminatory voting measures" and "is willing and ready to unite in the fight to protect our democracy."
Yet, after signing that letter and declaring its support for women's rights, Google donated $155,000 in corporate funds to the RSLC in 2021. The donations were made by three different Google entities: Google Corporate Services ($10,000), Google Inc ($95,000), and Waymo ($50,000). These are not corporate PAC contributions. This is money directly from Google’s corporate treasury.
Google did not respond to a request for comment.
Google isn’t alone. Several other companies donated extensively to the RSLC in 2021 despite embracing women's rights and voting rights.
Comcast/NBC Universal: $135,000 to the RSLC
In 2021, Comcast gave the RSLC $135,000. Yet, less than three years ago, NBCUniversal, which is owned by Comcast, suggested that it would reconsider producing content in Georgia if the state passed a six-week abortion ban. "If any of these laws are upheld, it would strongly impact our decision-making on where we produce our content in the future,” the company said at the time. The bill was ultimately struck down by a federal judge in 2020.
Today, Comcast is financially supporting efforts to keep Republican legislators pushing abortion bans in power.
When it comes to voting rights, Comcast has also publicly stated that efforts to restrict voting are inconsistent with its values:
Voting is fundamental to our democracy. We believe that all Americans should enjoy equitable access to secure elections and we have long supported and promoted voter education, registration and participation campaigns across the country to achieve that goal. Efforts to limit or impede access to this vital constitutional right for any citizen are not consistent with our values.
The RSLC, however, spent 2021 encouraging state officials to make voting more difficult. The RSLC supported ending no-excuse absentee voting in Georgia and completely banning drop boxes. “Election Integrity,” a Republican euphemism for voting restrictions, is one of the RSLC's top priorities, according to the group’s website.
Comcast did not respond to a request for comment.
CVS: $50,000 to the RSLC
CVS claims its mission is to "support the unique health needs of women at every age." The company claims it seeks to make care for women "more accessible… and more local."
Yet CVS donated $50,000 to the RSLC in 2021, supporting legislators who are restricting women's access to reproductive healthcare. In Texas, the law is forcing women to travel across state lines to get an abortion.
CVS has also attempted to associate itself with the legacy of John Lewis, who is currently the namesake of a federal bill that seeks to restore voting rights.
But CVS's donations to the RSLC are supporting legislators who are undermining Lewis' legacy and restricting voting rights.
CVS did not respond to a request for comment.
Citi: $75,000 to the RSLC
Citigroup claims that it's working to advance women's rights as outlined by the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Specifically “enabling progress…to ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life.”
The company also asserted "the right to vote is the foundation of American democracy" and said it "strongly" opposes "efforts to undermine the ability of Americans to avail themselves of this fundamental right."
But the company donated $75,000 to the RSLC in 2021 — money that was used to undermine both of these goals.
Citigroup did not respond to a request for comment.
AT&T: $150,000 to the RSLC
In AT&T's 2020 Diversity, Equality and Inclusion Report, CEO John Stankey said one of the company's "core values" was "gender equity and the empowerment of women."
AT&T also celebrated "Women's Equality Day," saying it was "a day to reflect on the many challenges women in our society still face to achieve equity." The company said that it believed "empowered women are key to the success of their communities."
AT&T also presents itself as deeply committed to voting rights. The company, for example, posted a four-minute video to its corporate website documenting a trip that employees took to Selma, Alabama to honor John Lewis and others who fought for the right to vote.
In 2021, AT&T donated $150,000 to the RSLC. In response to a request for comment, an AT&T spokesperson sent the following statement: "We provide the same amount annually to the Republican State Leadership Committee and the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee."
Other major corporate donors to the RSLC in 2021
Other prominent corporate donors to the RSLC include Anheuser-Busch ($65,000), Diageo North America ($50,000), Farmers Insurance ($100,000), Home Depot ($50,000), Intuit ($100,000), Motion Picture Association ($50,000), Walmart ($70,000), and Wells Fargo ($50,000). Motion Picture Association declined to comment. The other companies did not respond to Popular Information’s requests for comment.