Corporations tweet support for Black Lives Matter. Their FEC filings tell a different story.
|Judd Legum||Jun 2, 2020||89||7|
This is the online edition of the Popular Information newsletter. Sign up to get independent accountability journalism in your inbox:
In the wake of the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, major corporations are rushing to embrace the Black Lives Matter movement. But several of the same corporations have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to members of Congress that are rated "F" by the NAACP, the nation's largest civil rights organization.
The NAACP has produced a "Legislative Report Card" of key civil rights votes since 1914. The most recent report covers the 115th Congress and scored 32 votes in the House and Senate.
The NAACP Report Card for the 115th Congress, for example, scored a vote on H.J. Res 37 which "repealed an executive order by President Obama which required federal contractors, when bidding for a contract for $500,000 or more, to reveal if they have been found guilty of being in violation of 14 essential, well established, labor or non-discrimination laws." The NAACP urged a "no" vote. (The resolution ultimately passed both chambers of Congress and was signed by Trump.)
The NAACP Report Card also scored an amendment by Steve King (R-IA), which would have prevented the enforcement of prevailing wage laws. The NAACP opposed the amendment. The amendment failed. Notably, during the 116th Congress, King was stripped of his committee assignments after telling the New York Times that he didn't understand why white supremacy was offensive.
Citigroup, for example, is featuring its support for racial justice on its social media accounts.
The tweet links to a corporate blog post, titled "I can't breathe," by Citigroup CFO Mark Mason. He describes Citibank as a corporation that "is willing to stand up" and confront the "systemic problems" that are the root of injustice for black people.
Racism continues to be at the root of so much pain and ugliness in our society – from the streets of Minneapolis to the disparities inflicted by COVID-19. As long as that's true, America's twin ideals of freedom and equality will remain out of reach…
I'm proud to work at Citi, an organization that cherishes diversity and inclusion and is willing to stand up for those values...
These systemic problems will not go away until we confront them head on...
Mason says that "in an effort to aid in the fight to address these issues," he will make a donation to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and other civil rights organizations. What he doesn't mention in that, during the 2020 election cycle, Citigroup has donated $242,000 to members of Congress who are rated "F" by the NAACP.
In this election cycle, Citigroup has donated to 74 members of Congress that were rated "F" by the NAACP. That means they voted with the NAACP 59% of the time or less. Most of the members who received Citigroup cash scored far lower, and many were in the single digits.
Citigroup, through its corporate PAC, donated $180,000 to 53 members of the House rated "F" by the NAACP. The highest score of this group was 31%, and more than half scored in the single digits.
Citigroup also donated $62,000 to 21 Senators rated "F" by the NAACP. The highest score was 28%, and nine scored in the single digits.
Citigroup appears to believe that aligning itself with the Black Lives Matter movement and the ongoing fight for civil rights is good for its brand. But its political spending shows that it quietly bankrolls politicians who consistently vote to undermine, not protect, civil rights. These political donations help entrench powerful forces standing in the way of racial justice.
And Citigroup is not alone.
Google: $351,000 to politicians rated "F" by the NAACP
Google's CEO, Sundar Pichai, tweeted that his company supports "racial equality in solidarity with the Black community and in memory of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery & others who don’t have a voice." A message on the Google homepage states, "we stand in support of racial equality, and all those who search for it."
But FEC records reveal that, in this election cycle, Google is standing with 89 members of Congress who received an "F" from the NAACP. During this election cycle, Google, through its corporate PAC, donated $124,500 to 23 Senators rated "F." It also donated $226,500 to 66 members of the House with the same failing grade.
Amazon: 389,500 to politicians rated "F" by the NAACP
In a tweet posted Sunday afternoon, Amazon said that it stands "in solidarity with the Black community — our employees, customers, and partners — in the fight against systemic racism and injustice."
While the Black community got a tweet, 137 members of Congress rated "F" by the NAACP received $389,500 from Amazon. During this election cycle, Amazon, through its corporate PAC, donated $290,000 to 112 members of the House rated "F" by the NAACP. Amazon also donated $99,500 to 25 members of the Senate with the same failing grade.
Why do companies bother professing their commitment to civil rights issues while supporting politicians that pursue an incompatible agenda? New School professor David Lieberman offers an explanation in an interview with Josh Sternberg's Media Nut newsletter. According to Lieberman, the corporate embrace of Black Lives Matters is part of a strategy to reach young consumers and retain talented employees:
A lot of companies realize young people feel their wallet is their vote. They don't want to be part of a system supporting companies whose values they're not so sure about...they see what they buy as being an expression of themselves and their values.
...Young people don't want to work for companies that don’t have values. That’s become a big deal. You’re choosing between two companies to work for, which company do I feel better working for. It’s not just about money.
My advice: If you want to understand a corporation's values, ignore its tweets, and pay attention to its FEC filings.
Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Thanks for reading!