Although many on the left have begun using corporations in their pressure campaigns against conservative voting legislation, Democratic politicians are still quick to criticize a Supreme Court case that allows corporations to engage in political speech during the electoral process.
The Supreme Court ruled in the 2010 case Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission that the FEC could not prevent a private group from distributing a film criticizing Hillary Clinton. Distribution of the film during the 2008 Democratic presidential primaries violated the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA), which prohibited corporate and union groups from engaging in electioneering communications. In ruling for Citizens United, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote that “no sufficient governmental interest justifies limits on the political speech of nonprofit or for-profit corporations.”
Democrats criticized the free speech ruling, complaining that corporate money would harm American politics. In all three presidential elections since 2010, the Democratic nominee called for a constitutional amendment that would overturn the ruling. High levels of spending “fundamentally threaten to overwhelm the political process over the long run and drown out the voices of ordinary citizens,” then-President Barack Obama said in 2012.
Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign called for a constitutional amendment that would allow Congress to “establish common sense rules to protect against the undue influence of billionaires and special interests and to restore the role of average voters in elections,” Politico reported. (RELATED: Citizens United President: Hillary’s Desire To Pack Courts To Overturn SCOTUS Is ‘Surreal’)
Joe Biden’s 2020 campaign went further than either Obama’s or Clinton’s. He called for a constitutional amendment that would ban all private donations in federal elections, and “require candidates for federal office to solely fund their campaigns with public dollars.”
Overturning Citizens United isn’t enough. Ridding our politics of big money and corporate special interests demands more. We must go further.
I will introduce a constitutional amendment to get all private dollars out of our federal elections.
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) October 15, 2019
Now, however, top Democrats cheer as major corporations uniformly oppose election integrity laws across the country. Business leaders from companies including Starbucks, General Motors, and Amazon published a two page ad in the Washington Post and New York Times following a Zoom call in which they decided that they “felt very strongly that… voting restrictions are based on a flawed premise and are dangerous.”
“We all should feel a responsibility to defend the right to vote and to oppose any discriminatory legislation or measures that restrict or prevent any eligible voter from having an equal and fair opportunity to cast a ballot,” the ad reads.
WE STAND FOR DEMOCRACY — 100s of companies and exec sign this letter opposing “any discriminatory legislation.” Ad appeared in the NYT and @washingtonpost today. w / @andrewrsorkin https://t.co/TSPtxjkWhR pic.twitter.com/bAtS8SyseB
— David Gelles (@dgelles) April 14, 2021
The companies did so in response to a Georgia bill that expands voter ID requirements and early voting. Major League Baseball (MLB) moved its 2021 All Star Game out of Atlanta in response to the measure, following pressure from Biden and corporate sponsors. Former President Barack Obama cheered MLB for “taking a stand on behalf of voting rights for all citizens” after the move.
Biden said he would “strongly support” the MLB’s move, saying “people look to them. They’re leaders.”
Biden also said it was “reassuring” to see these corporations boycott Georgia, but also noted that it hurts the workers.
Stacey Abrams recently applauded businesses in Michigan that were opposing election laws in their state. Abrams has said that while she respects boycotts, she doesn’t want to see families “hurt by lost events and jobs.”
Abrams previously said on April 1 that companies shouldn’t boycott, “yet.”
Clinton claimed that laws like Georgia’s constitute “a direct constitutional challenge to the rights of citizenship, to the Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendment, to a long line of cases.” The Thirteenth Amendment prohibits slavery, while the Fourteenth Amendment provides all citizens with equal protection of the law. The 15th Amendment is the only one of the three that deals with voting rights, and that prohibits limiting the right to vote based on race.