McConnell versus the First Amendment

In recent days, more corporations have spoken out against voter suppression laws. In Texas, American Airlines and Dell announced their opposition to two major bills to restrict voting under consideration in the legislature. In Georgia, Delta and Coca-Cola called the new law to restrict voting "disappointing," "unacceptable," and "based on a lie." Major League Baseball (MLB) decided to move the All-Star game from Atlanta, saying the league "fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box." On April 2, a coalition of more than 200 companies — including Dow, Twitter, HP, Paypal, and Uber — released a statement opposing "hundreds of bills threatening to make voting more difficult in dozens of states nationwide." 

A group of 72 black corporate executives released an open letter calling on corporate America to publicly reject legislation that restricts voting. "Corporations have to stand up. There is no middle ground," former American Express CEO Ken Chenault, who helped organize the letter, said

One person was quite upset about these developments: Mitch McConnell.

On Monday morning, McConnell issued a blistering statement targeting corporations who publicly opposed legislation to restrict voting:

Our private sector must stop taking cues from the Outrage-Industrial Complex. Americans do not need or want big business to amplify disinformation or react to every manufactured controversy with frantic left-wing signaling.

From election law to environmentalism to radical social agendas to the Second Amendment, parts of the private sector keep dabbling in behaving like a woke parallel government. Corporations will invite serious consequences if they become a vehicle for far-left mobs to hijack our country from outside the constitutional order.

"My advice to the corporate CEOs of America is to stay out of politics. Don’t pick sides in these big fights," McConnell added in a news conference in Kentucky. McConnell, who has accepted $4.3 million in corporate money to fund his campaigns over the last five years, said he "found it completely discouraging to find a bunch of corporate CEOs getting in the middle of politics."

McConnell's comments followed a statement released on Saturday by Trump, which blasted corporations for engaging in "WOKE CANCEL CULTURE." Trump called for a boycott of Delta, Coca-Cola, MLB, and other corporations that spoke out against voter suppression. He claimed that new voting restrictions are necessary because people "rigged and store our 2020 Presidential Election." 

It was a dramatic departure from McConnell's general view on corporate speech. Previously, McConnell has been "among the most outspoken champions of the role of big money in elections, promoting the free-flow of undisclosed dollars to campaigns as a form of Constitution-protected free speech." Esquire correctly notes that, by fighting against virtually all restrictions on corporate political spending, McConnell "has done as much as anyone alive get large corporations as much clout as possible in our politics."

McConnell warned corporations of "serious consequences" if they kept taking political opinions he didn't like. What type of consequences is McConnell talking about? Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO), a member of McConnell's caucus, floated one idea. Hawley suggested revoking MLB's antitrust exemption in retaliation for the league speaking out against Georgia's voting bill and relocating the All-Star Game:

This is not just idle talk. In the House, Congressman Jeff Duncan (R-SC) announced that his staff was drafting legislation to remove MLB's antitrust exemption in retaliation for the league expressing its views on voting rights.

Duncan's efforts were endorsed by Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) and Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), who said he "will be working hard to END MLB’s antitrust immunity."

Right now, with Biden in the White House and Democrats in control of the House, McConnell and Republicans lack the power to retaliate against MLB or any other company. But what they are suggesting — changing the law to punish a corporation for political speech — would be a clear violation of the First Amendment.  

The First Amendment provides that "Congress shall make no law...abridging the freedom of speech." Here corporations are speaking out against voting laws they believe are unjust. Hawley, Duncan, Lee, and Cruz are proposing making a law punishing MLB to discourage such speech. McConnell isn’t being quite as specific, but he is making ominous threats.

"You don't feed a dog that bites your hand"

As Georgia considered its bill to restrict voting, Delta refused to take a position. But about a week after it passed, CEO Ed Bastian issued a memo that said the new law is "unacceptable and does not match Delta’s values." 

Hours later, Georgia Representative Sam Watson (R) introduced an amendment "to repeal a tax break on jet fuel." The provision was quickly approved by the Georgia House. Georgia House Speaker David Ralston (R) did not try to hide that the measure was retaliation for Delta's statement on Georgia's voting law:

They like our public policy when we’re doing things that benefit them, and they reap the rewards of those benefits and then turn around and do this. As all of you know, I can’t resist a country boy line or two, you don’t feed a dog that bites your hand. You’ve got to keep that in mind.

The provision was not taken up by the Senate and the legislature adjourned, so it will not become law. But Ralston said the issue "could be revisited during next year’s legislative session."

Messing with the First Amendment

In Texas, Dallas County Republican Chairman Rodney Anderson suggested that Texas increase taxes on Microsoft, Dell, and American Airlines after the three companies expressed opposition to state legislation restricting voting. 

Anderson may have realized he crossed a line and later deleted the tweet. But Anderson's comments are part of a pattern of threatening retribution against companies that speak out against voter suppression. 

United ignores McConnell's threats

McConnell delivered his warning to corporate America at around 10:15 AM on Monday. About an hour later, United Airlines issued a statement blasting voter suppression laws in Texas and elsewhere. United Airlines said it was its corporate duty to "engage in the democratic process." The company said that "there was zero credible evidence of widespread fraud in U.S. election" and "legislation that infringes on the right to vote of fellow Americans is wrong." 

Last week, Popular Information reported that United Airlines had donated $42,700 to the Texas politicians pushing voter suppression legislation.