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Columns David Pendered

CPA ID’s companies that funded lawmakers who restricted voting access

From 'Corporate Enablers: Who are the Leading Bankrollers of Voter Suppression Legislation?' (Image from Center for Political Accountability)

Read the first story in this two-part series: ‘Georgia companies lead, trail in disclosing political spending: CPA index’

By David Pendered

Corporations that funded Georgia lawmakers who voted to restrict voting access are under increasing scrutiny that goes beyond national headlines about Coca-Cola Co. and Delta Air Lines reversing their positions in the face of public outrage.

The oversight on the issue of voting access is part of the broadening look at political spending by corporations, and how it matches companies’ publicly stated policy values on environmental, social and corporate governance.

The Center for Political Accountability produced “Corporate Enablers: Who are the Leading Bankrollers of Voter Suppression Legislation?” CPA is a nonprofit entity of the Carol and Lawrence Zicklin Center for Business Ethics Research at the Wharton School, at the University of Pennsylvania. This report was released in July.

Georgia is among seven battleground states that received a quarter of the $79 million in corporate donations in 2018 and 2020 to GOP groups that financed lawmakers who “sponsored, advanced or will be voting on voting restriction or nullification,” according to CPA’s report. Georgia is joined by Arizona, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Texas.

This amount isn’t a major sum in this era of political spending, the digest notes. The money trail it creates is an emerging issue for companies as investors call on them to align political spending with shareholder expectations on ESG values. The report observes:

  • “This money trail matters, even though the $21.5 million sum expended is not large by itself. This record confronts companies operating in today’s polarized political environment with questions about bankrolling attacks in state capitals on voting rights.”

Coca-Cola and Delta were caught up in March in the criticism of Georgia-based companies that had not spoken forcefully against the GOP-led restriction of voting access. Both later condemned the measures of Senate Bill 202, but only after the law was passed and after they had been criticized for not objecting to the proposal. “The New York Times” captured the moment in a March 31 story published under this headline:

  • “Delta and Coca-Cola Reverse Course on Georgia Voting Law, Stating ‘Crystal Clear’ Opposition”

The money trail from corporations to lawmakers who supported SB 202 is detailed in flow charts in the report from the Center for Political Accountability. The chapter on Georgia begins a report on all seven states where GOP lawmakers received direct contributions or funds from tax-exempt 527 political organizations, sometimes referred to as political action committees or Super PACs.

The trail leading to Brian Kemp, the GOP gubernatorial candidate in 2018, is presented in one of the charts. Kemp signed SB 202.

Kemp received a total of $5.9 million from the Republican Governors Association and the Georgia Republican Party. Both entities were funded by Coca-Cola and Delta.

To the RGA, Coca-Cola gave $604,664 and Deta gave $154,117. To the state GOP, Coca-Cola gave $45,832.43 and Delta gave $5,000, according to the CPA report.

The contributions fueled an RGA national campaign fund of $41.3 million. Of this sum, $2.1 million was provided to the RGA 2018 Georgia PAC, which was provided to gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp. In addition, the Georgia Republican Party provided $3.9 million to Kemp, according to CPA’s report.

The CPA report provides a similar money trail for Georgia lawmakers in the 2020 election cycle, divided into two categories: Lawmakers who introduced legislation to restrict voting rights; and lawmakers who advanced SB 202. The chart tracks contributions to the Republican State Leadership Committee, a total of $16.7 million.

Of this sum, the national RSLC provided $891,000 to the RSLC Georgia PAC, which provided $450,000 to the Georgia House Republican Trust Fund. The remaining money was distributed among GOP candidates.

CPA’s report highlighted Coca-Cola and Delta because each gave $100,000 or more to the RGA. Other companies cited in the report for giving to the state GOP, which funded Kemp, include Southern Co., at $217,500, and AFLAC, at $31,924.

David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow.


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1 Comment

  1. Kelli Walker December 24, 2021 6:48 pm

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