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Senator Rick Scott (R-FL) is irate.
Scott was one of eight Senators to object to the certification of the Electoral College. It was an effort to overturn the results of the election based on Trump's lies about voter fraud. Scott personally advanced those lies claiming the 2020 presidential election "has shown we need major reforms to our election systems… to protect against fraud."
After Biden took office, voting restrictions based on false claims of illegal ballots were introduced across the country. In three states — Iowa, Georgia, and Montana — these restrictions have become law.
In response, corporations have taken some moderate steps. First, some corporations pledged to cut off PAC donations to members of Congress, like Scott, who voted to overturn the election. (A larger group of companies said they promised to pause all political giving.) Second, a number of corporations have spoken out broadly in support of voting rights. (A handful of companies have opposed specific legislation in Georgia, Texas, and Arizona.)
Scott is not just a Senator pushing false claims about voter fraud. He is also the chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), which is responsible for electing more Republicans to the Senate. Scott was counting on corporate money to support this effort.
Scott vented his frustrations in a screed posted on the Fox Business website. Scott accuses corporations writ large of "lying to Americans" and promises that when Republicans take back the Senate, "it will be a day of reckoning."
You give the woke mob concession after concession, hoping to buy time to rake in more cash under your watch. You feed the rabble leftist mob that is shouting that America is racist, hoping they won’t come for you.
...Let me give you woke corporate leaders a heads-up: Everybody can see the game you are playing. Everybody can see your lies. You are the naked emperor.
You are, in fact, morally inferior to the working men and women of this great country, who are not racist people, and who, unlike you, care about truth.
And here is another bit of news for you: There is a massive backlash coming. You will rue the day when it hits you. That day is November 8, 2022. That is the day Republicans will take back the Senate and the House. It will be a day of reckoning.
Ostensibly, Scott claims that once Republicans reclaim control of the Senate they will "make corporate welfare a thing of the past." But if he is truly interested in that, it's unclear why he has to wait until 2022. As Steve Benen notes, Scott could "work with the Democratic majority to scale back corporate welfare right now."
But Scott seems less interested in public policy than mob-style threats. The message is to send checks and keep your mouth shut about voting restrictions, or face the consequences. And this is the message that Scott is delivering publicly.
Whatever Scott is saying, it is working with a few corporations, according to new FEC reports filed on Tuesday.
Merck's words versus Merck's actions
Over the last few weeks, Merck CEO Ken Frazier has garnered widespread acclaim for his outspoken stance against restrictive voting laws. He, along with former American Express CEO Kenneth Chenault, brought together a group of 72 Black executives and published a letter urging Corporate America to “publicly oppose any discriminatory legislation and all measures designed to limit Americans’ ability to vote.”
“Democracy rests on ensuring that every eligible voter has an equal and fair opportunity to cast a ballot,” said Frazier on CNBC in March. Last week, Frazier organized the publication of a similar letter that was signed by more companies and executives.
Yet, according to a filing the company's PAC filed on Tuesday, Merck donated $15,000 to the NRSC on March 23. Despite public embracing voting rights, Merck is backing Republican lawmakers that are staunchly opposed to HR1 and the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act––bills that would permanently protect voting rights at the federal level. The money will benefit other Senate Republicans who voted against the certification of the Electoral College and support state-level efforts to restrict voting, including Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) and Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX).
Merck has also donated $15,000 to the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), an organization that supports the re-election of over 130 Republicans who voted against Biden’s victory and uniformly oppose federal efforts to protect voting rights.
How are these donations consistent with Merck’s public position on voting rights? The company did not respond to a request for comment.
Corporations paying up
Six corporations pledged to pause donations to lawmakers who voted against the certification of Biden but are donating to the NRSC, chaired by Scott, according to documents filed Tuesday with the FEC.
PNC donated $55,000 to the NRSC in March 2021. In January, the company told Popular Information that it was suspending donations to lawmakers who objected to the election. PNC did not respond to a request for comment.
Following the January 6 riots, Intel stated that “it will not contribute to members of Congress who voted against certification of the Electoral College results." But on March 2, the company donated $15,000 to the NRSC. The company told Popular Information that its “policy halting direct contributions to members of Congress who voted against certification of the Electoral College results still applies,” and added that it divides political contributions evenly among Republicans and Democrats.
In January, Sanofi announced it was halting support to Republican objectors. But the company donated $15,000 in March to the NRSC. A spokesperson for the company said that it “regularly contributes to party committees representing both Republicans and Democrats” and that contributions “are not related to or credited to the chair of the respective party committees.”
Pfizer donated $15,000 to the NRSC on March 2. In January, the company previously said it would “not contribute to any of the 147 Members of Congress who voted against certifying the Electoral College” for six months. Home Depot, which said in January it was pausing donations to the Republican objectors, donated $15,000 to the NRSC in March. Oracle donated $3,750 to the NRSC on March 25. Three months prior, the company said that it would "pause contributions to anyone who voted against certifying the November 2020 election results." The three companies did not respond to a request for comment.
North Carolina GOP abandons anti-trans bill
Last Monday, Popular Information covered S514, a draconian anti-trans bill introduced in the North Carolina Senate. The bill would:
1. Ban anyone under the age of 21 from receiving gender-affirming treatment, including reversible hormone therapy.
2. Impose fines on medical professionals who provide gender-affirming treatment to anyone under the age of 21.
3. Require government employees, including teachers, to report children who demonstrate "gender nonconformity" to their parents.
4. Protect the discredited practice of "conversion" therapy.
Major corporations, Popular Information reported, had donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the sponsors of this legislation. The second-biggest donor was Blue Cross Blue Shield North Carolina (Blue Cross NC), which considers gender-affirming treatment to be "medically necessary" for adults and children under 18 under certain conditions.
In response to a request for comment, Blue Cross NC sent Popular Information a statement that was highly critical of the goals of the legislation:
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina stands against discrimination of any kind, including discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Individuals have unique medical needs and deserve understanding, compassion and equity in the access and delivery of their own health care. Limiting access to care based on gender identity is against our vision and values.
Recent legislative activities do not impact or change our ongoing collaboration with health care providers, employers, elected officials and community partners across the state to make health care better for all in North Carolina.
Popular Information's reporting was picked up by multiple outlets in North Carolina, including Charlotte's NBC affiliate, which ran this interview on Sunday:
On Tuesday, however, a spokesperson for Senate Leader Phil Berger (R), said that bill had no "path forward" and "will not be voted on the Senate floor." It was an unusual public statement killing a bill that was written by Senator Ralph Hise (R), who is also a member of the North Carolina Senate leadership.
The North Carolina General Assembly is still considering legislation that "would bar transgender girls and women from competing on female athletic teams in middle school, high school and college."