Corporations gave over $50M to voting restriction backers

FILE - In this July 18, 2019, file photo, a sign is displayed at an AT&T retail store in Miami. Corporations have given more than $50 million in recent years to state lawmakers who have seized on Donald Trumps lies about a stolen 2020 election to push for new restrictions on the right to vote. That's according to a new report by the government watchdog nonprofit Public Citizen. Telecom-giant AT&T was the most prolific giver, donating over $800,000 since 2015 to authors of proposed restrictions, co-sponsors of such measures, or those who voted in favor of the bills, a new report by the Washington-based non-profit Public Citizen found. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File)
FILE - In this July 18, 2019, file photo, a sign is displayed at an AT&T retail store in Miami. Corporations have given more than $50 million in recent years to state lawmakers who have seized on Donald Trumps lies about a stolen 2020 election to push for new restrictions on the right to vote. That's according to a new report by the government watchdog nonprofit Public Citizen. Telecom-giant AT&T was the most prolific giver, donating over $800,000 since 2015 to authors of proposed restrictions, co-sponsors of such measures, or those who voted in favor of the bills, a new report by the Washington-based non-profit Public Citizen found. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File) (Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

WASHINGTON – When executives from Coca-Cola and Delta Air Lines spoke out against Georgia's new voting law as unduly restrictive last week, it seemed to signal a new activism springing from corporate America.

But if leaders of the nation's most prominent companies are going to reject lawmakers who support restrictive voting measures, they will have to abruptly reverse course.

State legislators across the country who have pushed for new voting restrictions, and also seized on former President Donald Trump's baseless claims of election fraud, have reaped more than $50 million in corporate donations in recent years, according to a new report by Public Citizen, a Washington-based government watchdog group.

Telecom giant AT&T was the most prolific, donating over $800,000 since 2015 to authors of proposed restrictions, cosponsors of such measures, or those who voted in favor of the bills, the report found. Other top donors during the same period include Comcast, Philip Morris USA, UnitedHealth Group, Walmart, Verizon, General Motors and Pfizer.

The money may not have been given with voting laws in mind, but it nonetheless helped cement Republican control in statehouses where many of the prohibitive measures are now moving forward.

Whether companies continue to give to these lawmakers will test how far risk-averse corporate leaders are willing to go in their increasingly forceful criticism of the restrictive efforts, which voting rights groups have excoriated as an attack on democracy.

"It really is corporate America, as a whole, that is funding these politicians,” said Mike Tanglis, one of the authors of the report. “It seems many are trying to hide under a rock and hope that this issue passes.”

More than 120 companies detailed in the report previously said they would rethink their donations to members of Congress who, acting on the same falsehoods as the state lawmakers, objected to the certification of President Joe Biden's win following the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol by Trump supporters.