Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms announces she won’t run for a second term

atlanta mayor lance bottoms
Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms speaks onstage during the 10th Annual BronzeLens Film Festival Women Superstars Luncheon on August 23, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia.

  • Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms is bowing out of running for a second term.
  • Bottoms gained a national profile for leading Atlanta through a tumultuous 2020.
  • Bottoms had also turned down a position to serve in President Joe Biden’s cabinet.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms announced she won’t seek a second term on Thursday night, a decision that sent political shockwaves through the city.

“As Derek and I have given thoughtful prayer and consideration to the season now before us, it is with deep emotions that I hold my head high, and choose not to seek another term as Mayor,” Bottoms, who was elected to office in 2017, said in a long letter published late Thursday.

Bottoms gained a national profile in 2020 for leading Atlanta through a tumultuous summer of protests and civil unrest around the killings of Black Americans by police, and forged an allyship with now-President Joe Biden, who recently hosted a fundraiser for her.

In the letter, Bottoms emphasized that she wasn’t scared away by potential competition, saying that her fundraising and polling put her in a strong position to run for another term.

She had been rumored to be under consideration for various positions in the Biden administration throughout 2020, including Ambassador to the Bahamas (which her team denied), head of the Small Business Administration, and even as Biden’s running mate.

In December 2020, Bottoms confirmed she had turned down an offer to serve in Biden’s cabinet for an unspecified position in order to focus on her mayoral duties.

Read more: Washington job moves of the week: A former Matt Gaetz staffer quickly lands a new gig, while Trump’s former EPA chief lands at a conservative think tank

Bottoms stepping down and declining to run for a second term is part of a national trend of mayors, burnt out from shepherding their cities through the COVID-19 pandemic, heading for the exits, The New York Times reports.

Citing people close to Bottoms, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that she declined to run for another term “because she felt her motivation sapping.”

Some reports on Thursday night suggested Bottoms was leaving office so that she or her husband Derek Bottoms could take an executive job with Walgreens in Chicago, which Bottoms’ team denied.

Leading contenders who could jump into what will be a crowded race for Bottoms’ job include former Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, 2017 candidate Mary Norwood, Atlanta Hawks CEO Steve Koonin, and former state lawmaker Jason Carter, according to the Journal-Constitution.

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GOP-backed voting restrictions like Florida’s will appease Trump more than they’ll help Republicans win elections

Ron DeSantis on Fox & Friends
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signing election law Senate Bill 90 live on “Fox & Friends”

  • Florida is the latest state to enact GOP-backed restrictions on mail voting.
  • Many of these laws may appease Trump rather than help the GOP.
  • Despite Trump’s claims, there is no evidence that mail voting helped Democrats.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Flanked by a smiling crowd of supporters at the Airport Hilton in West Palm Beach on Thursday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the latest in a wave of Republican-backed bills restricting mail voting at an event that only Fox News was allowed to carry live.

Between Fox News scoring an exclusive for the signing and the effusive praise from the “Fox & Friends'” hosts for DeSantis, the event was clearly made-for-Trump television.

The law itself, like so many of the hundreds of others being pushed by Republican state lawmakers in dozens of states, was tailored to appease former President Donald Trump and his allies’ baseless claims of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election.

Senate Bill 90 requires Floridians to apply to vote by mail more frequently, restricts ballot drop boxes, and bans election offices from accepting private grants (which DeSantis derisively termed “Zuckerbucks”) that helped many run the 2020 election during the COVID-19 pandemic. Trump won Florida by over 3 percentage points.

Read more: Trump is staying out of the Virginia GOP’s governor race. His absence is making a chaotic campaign even more bonkers

Before Florida, Georgia Republicans passed Senate Bill 202, a law that gives the state legislature more power over the State Elections Board and demotes Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who became Trump’s target after defending the integrity of the presidential election.

The law empowers the board to discipline and suspend local election officials while limiting its capacity to enter into consent decrees and settlements, like the one in March 2020 that fixated Trump.

Similar bills are also under consideration in Texas and Michigan.

Texas mail ballot
In this Sept. 29, 2020 file photo, Harris County election worker Jose Vasquez prepares mail-in ballots to be sent to voters in Houston

Cutting back on mail voting likely won’t move the needle for the GOP

Both Democrats and Republicans frequently assume that more voting options, like expanded mail and early voting, mean higher turnout and that the higher voter turnout always helps Democrats.

Neither of those assumptions is always true. Especially with voting by mail, there’s little evidence that the unprecedented spike in mail voting in 2020 benefitted Democrats or even meaningfully boosted voter turnout in many cases.

One working paper from Stanford University concluded that the rise of “no-excuse absentee voting mobilized relatively few voters and had at most a muted partisan effect despite the historic pandemic.”

The researchers examined data from Texas, which allows only certain categories of voters, including those 65 and above, to request to vote absentee. While the rates at which seniors chose to vote absentee increased, they turned out to vote at virtually the same rate as 64-year-olds, with the greatest turnout increases reported among 20- to 30-year-olds, who, for the most part, were not allowed to vote absentee.

Another study from the Public Policy Institute of California found that states sending all registered voters a ballot was associated with significant increases in voter turnout, but not gains for Democrats. In fact, Democrats’ vote share decreased across all voting methods compared to elections before 2020, suggesting that in at least some cases, a rise in mail voting may have helped Republicans.

And Republicans performed exceptionally well at the down-ballot level with record levels of mail and early voting. The GOP held onto several competitive Senate seats, won back 12 House seats, and, picked up over 80 state legislative seats nationwide ahead of a crucial redistricting year.

The GOP base has also shifted under Trump to include fewer wealthy, college-educated voters and more non-college-educated, lower-propensity voters, as The New York Times’ Ross Douthat recently pointed out.

Many of those new GOP voters could face challenges accessing the ballot box because of the restrictive voting laws being pushed by Republicans.

It’s too soon to know the true impact of these bills, but all evidence so far suggests they’re doing far more to appease Trump and support his repeated lies about the 2020 results than they will to boost the GOP’s electoral performance or increase election security.

Florida ballot drop box
An election worker places a vote-by-mail ballot into an official ballot drop box outside of an early voting site, Monday, Oct. 19, 2020, in Miami

Florida could end up being a cautionary tale for rushing to restrict voting

Florida rushing to cut back on a tried-and-true electoral strategy in response to the whims of one politician could backfire on Republicans, as The Washington Post recently reported.

Florida expanded vote by mail to all citizens in the early 2000s and the Republican Party apparatus in the state built up a robust get-out-the-vote operation with mail ballots that has helped Republican candidates win there for decades.

In 2018, the year DeSantis defeated Democrat Andrew Gillum in the governor’s race and Sen. Rick Scott ousted Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson, Republicans cast 54,000 more mail ballots than Democrats.

Even Trump, who spent months perpetuating lies about mail voting, praised Florida’s mail voting system as “safe and secure” in August 2020, and has voted by mail in Florida four times in 2020 and 2021.

But Trump’s one-time assurance about Florida wasn’t enough to counteract the avalanche of misinformation that he spewed in the months leading to the November election.

In 2020, the decades-long trend of Republicans outpacing Democrats in mail voting in the state dramatically reversed, with registered Democrats casting 683,000 more mail ballots than Republicans.

By the 2022 elections, many senior citizens in Florida who relied on mail voting for years may be surprised to find that their mail ballot application has expired or that they have to travel further to reach a dropbox.

“Any time either party tries to make a change in the way we think about elections because of one election cycle, it’s kind of fraught with danger,” Florida-based Democratic strategist Steve Schale told The Post.

“I do not believe we know enough about voting behavior to know that Democrats are going to vote by mail forever going forward,” he said. “In the same way, Republicans have voted by mail for 20 years, and we don’t know they’re going to stop just because Donald Trump doesn’t like it.”

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Here is why the Bidens seem to tower over the Carters in that bizarre viral photo of the president and first lady with their oldest living counterparts

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In this April 30, 2021, photo released by The White House, former President Jimmy Carter and former first lady Rosalynn Carter pose for a photo with President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden at the home of the Carter’s in Plains Ga.

  • A photo of Joe and Jill Biden meeting with Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter last week has puzzled the internet.
  • The Bidens appear to tower over the former first couple in a photo taken at the Carters’ Georgia home.
  • A specific photography method and the framing of the photo are likely responsible for the oddity.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The internet was set ablaze Monday evening after former President Jimmy Carter and first lady Rosalynn Carter’s nonprofit, the Carter Center, shared a curious-looking photo of President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden posing with the former first couple last week in Georgia.

Like something out of a house of oddities, both Bidens appear to tower considerably over the Carters, who look like miniature figures seated in their chairs.

The photo seems to suggest that the Bidens are twice as large as the nonagenarian couple.

Jimmy Carter’s height is listed as 5′ 10″ while Biden is two inches taller. Rosalynn Carter, meanwhile, measures up at 5′ 5″, about one inch shorter than Jill Biden, who is 5′ 6″.

So, if the Bidens aren’t giants and the Carters aren’t tiny, what accounts for the bizarre photo?

A specific photography method and the framing of the photo are likely responsible for the illusion, according to The Washington Post and BBC News.

The photographer’s use of a wide-angle lens caused the Bidens, who are situated close to the edge, to appear enlarged. Meanwhile, the Carters, seated in the middle of the frame, look “pushed back,” BBC picture editor Phil Coomes told the outlet.

Marlena Sloss, a freelance photographer, told The Post that a strong flash also contributed to the effect. The flash reduces shadows, which play a role in giving photographed objects depth.

The Carters are both leaned back in their chairs, while the Bidens appear to be kneeling forward, giving the illusion that the two pairs are side-by-side and on the same plane, Sloss told the outlet.

The Bidens met with the Carters at their home in Plains, Georgia, during a trip to the state last week. It was the first time the two Democrats, who have a decades-long bond, had met in person since Biden’s inauguration.

The meeting was held in private, according to Yahoo News, as Jimmy Carter, 96, suffers from health problems that have impacted his ability to hear and speak.

The Carters are set to celebrate 75 years of marriage later this year.

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Florida legislature passes elections bill that contains restrictions on voting, following a GOP trend

Ron DeSantis
Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-Florida) fist bumps with legislators as he enters the chamber of the Florida House of Representatives prior to his State of the State address in Tallahassee on March 1, 2021.

  • The Florida legislature passed a broad elections bill that contains voting restrictions.
  • Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is expected to sign the bill in the battleground state.
  • The makeup of the bill resembles aspects of Georgia’s recently passed voting law.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Florida’s legislature passed a sweeping and restrictive voting reform bill late on Thursday, sending the legislation to Gov. Ron DeSantis for his signature.

DeSantis is expected to sign the bill in the battleground state, and the makeup of the bill resembles aspects of Georgia’s recently passed voting law.

The new bill limits the use of ballot drop boxes, requires separate absentee ballot requests for each election, and enforces stricter, more partisan rules for who can collect drop-off ballots and who can observe ballot counting.

The bill also broadly prohibits individuals and groups from providing items with “intent to influence,” to voters within 150 feet of a polling location. Those items include food and water.

The package made it through both legislative chambers with near-unanimous GOP support, passing 77-40 in the Florida House of Representatives and 23-17 in the Florida Senate.

GOP state Sen. Jeff Brandes voted against it.

The proponents of the legislation cited debunked claims of election fraud during the 2020 election to justify the need for the reforms, as Republican-led state legislatures in Texas and Arizona eye similar bills.

This story is developing. Check back for updates.

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Georgia Gov. Kemp throws support behind Home Depot as the chain faces calls for a boycott over its silence on restrictive voting laws

Brian Kemp
Critics say Georgia’s new voting law will suppress voters.

  • Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp slammed a proposed boycott of Home Depot on Tuesday.
  • Black religious leaders called for the boycott after what they see as Home Depot’s silence on the state’s new voting law.
  • Kemp called the boycott “ridiculous” and said liberal activists were “going after American jobs.”
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Georgia’s governor is speaking out against a call to boycott one of the state’s largest employers.

A group of Black religious leaders from more than 1,000 churches in the state on Tuesday called for a boycott of Home Depot following what they see as silence from the home-improvement chain about Georgia’s restrictive new voting law.

“We don’t believe this is simply a political matter,” Bishop Reginald T. Jackson, an organizer of the boycott, told The New York Times on Tuesday. “This is a matter that deals with securing the future of this democracy, and the greatest right in this democracy is the right to vote.”

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, who signed the law last month, pushed back against the boycott, arguing it will hurt jobs on social media.

“The left will do whatever it takes to cancel anyone who doesn’t agree with their political agenda. They went after baseball, and now they’re going after American jobs,” Kemp said in a tweet.

In a Tuesday press conference, Kemp said Home Depot employees were being unfairly “targeted” and that they “did not ask to be in this political fight.” According to the governor, the company employs 30,000 people in the state.

Read more: The America First Caucus is another step toward mainstreaming white ethno-nationalism in the GOP

In an emailed statement, a Home Depot spokesperson spoke broadly about the company’s stance on election security and voter participation but didn’t mention the Georgia law.

“We’ve decided that the most appropriate approach for us to take is to continue to underscore our statement that all elections should be accessible, fair and secure and support broad voter participation, and to continue to work to ensure our associates in Georgia and across the country have the information and resources to vote,” they said.

Civil rights advocates and Democratic lawmakers have criticized the law for suppressing voters, particularly Black voters. It enacts more stringent voter-ID rules for absentee ballots, imposes new regulations on drop boxes, and prohibits volunteers from offering water or food to people waiting to vote.

In the wake of the law, activists have pressured Georgia-based companies like Coca-Cola and Delta to take a stand against it. The MLB pulled the 2021 All-Star Game from the state following public pressure.

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Walmart, Delta, and Coca-Cola refused to join hundreds of other companies in opposing restrictive voting laws – here’s why

Georgia polling place
A voter walks to the entrance during early voting for the Senate runoff election, at Ron Anderson Recreation Center, Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020, in Powder Springs, Ga. Todd Kirkland/AP

While hundreds of major companies signed a new letter Wednesday opposing restrictive voting rules in the wake of Georgia’s election law, some notable ones – including Walmart, Coca-Cola, JPMorgan, and Delta Air Lines – declined to join the effort.

The letter, which ran as a full-page ad in the Wednesday edition of The New York Times and Washington Post, opposed “any discriminatory legislation” that limited people’s ability to vote. United Airlines, American Express, Facebook, Target, investor Warren Buffett, and others joined the effort.

Last month, a smaller group of companies signed a letter with similar sentiment organized by Black business leaders.

But, the Times reported, several companies declined to sign Wednesday’s letter, including Georgia-based Coca-Cola, Delta, and Home Depot, as well as Walmart and JPMorgan Chase.

“We publicly made our own strong statement last month about the critical importance of every citizen being able to exercise their fundamental right to vote,” a spokesperson for JPMorgan said.

The bank’s chief executive, Jamie Dimon, was one of the first major business leaders to speak out against the law, saying on CNN that he encourages workers to exercise their right to vote and opposes any efforts that would prevent them from doing so.

When asked about not signing onto Wednesday’s statement, a spokesperson for Home Depot said: “We’ve decided that the most appropriate approach for us to take is to continue to underscore our belief that all elections should be accessible, fair and secure and support broad voter participation, and to continue to work to ensure our associates in Georgia and across the country have the information and resources to vote.”

Read more: Corporate America’s response to Georgia’s new voting laws isn’t benevolence. It’s about economics and profit, experts say.

Coca-Cola didn’t respond to a request for comment. The beverage-maker faced consumer boycotts last month for not doing enough to oppose the bill. It later said it wanted to be “crystal clear” that it was disappointed in the outcome of the Georgia voting law. That sparked former President Donald Trump, a noted Diet Coke fanatic, to tell his followers to protest the company.

Delta and Walmart also didn’t respond to Insider’s request for comment.

Amid pressure to condemn the Georgia voting law, Delta CEO Ed Bastian blasted the legislation last month, saying it was “based on a lie.”

The Times reported that Walmart CEO Doug McMillon told employees in a note that the company is “not in the business of partisan politics,” noting that the retailer focuses on business issues such as taxes and regulation. In the note, he added that “broad participation and trust in the election process” are essential to the integrity of elections.

In March, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed the election bill, known as SB202, into law. The legislation made ballot drop boxes permanent, but only at select locations during limited hours, and shortened the window for requesting absentee ballots. The law also banned ballot selfies, and expanded early voting dates and hours in most counties, among other restrictive measures.

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It’s now or never for Democrats: either pass H.R. 1 or watch voter suppression bills like Georgia’s become the norm

Georgia voting
A person with voter protection waits for voters to arrive during Georgia’s Senate runoff elections on Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021, in Atlanta.

  • Georgia’s restrictive SB 202 bill is merely a warning shot.
  • There are currently more than 360 bills in 47 state legislatures restricting access to voting.
  • Democrats have a limited window of opportunity to pass landmark voting rights legislation before losing their majorities.
  • Carl Gibson is a freelance journalist and columnist from Kentucky.
  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Georgia’s Senate Bill 202 is by far the most draconian law passed by any state legislature with respect to restricting access to voting. This is merely an opening salvo in a widespread assault on the right to vote, and other Republican-controlled state legislatures are hoping to pass similar bills. The only way to head off the wave of attacks on the fundamental right of all citizens to have equal access to vote is for Democrats to use their slim majorities to immediately pass new voter protections. If HR 1 (the For The People Act) and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act don’t become law, Georgia’s anti-voting law will become just one of many.

Republicans are moving the goal-post

A New York Times analysis of the new Georgia elections law (SB 202) found that, among other things, it limits the window of time to request an absentee ballot, makes it illegal for election officials to mail absentee ballots to all voters, levies criminal penalties for anyone who gives water to voters in long lines, severely limits the number of ballot drop boxes, and replaces the secretary of state as chair of the State Election Board with someone elected from the state legislature. The Georgia legislature (which has been under Republican control since 2005) also now has the power to remove municipal and county election officials and replace them with people appointed by partisan state lawmakers.

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp (R) has argued the new law is necessary to make the state’s elections “secure, accessible, and fair.” This is despite Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger, stating in a Washington Post op-ed that “Georgia’s voting system has never been more secure or trustworthy.” Even Georgia Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan (R) thought the bill went too far to curb access to voting.

Various civil rights groups have since filed a legal challenge to SB 202, petitioning for the law to be rendered unconstitutional and in violation of the Voting Rights Act. But because Georgia is part of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, and because a majority of the circuit’s judges were appointed by Republican presidents, SB 202 may very well be upheld. Even if the 11th Circuit struck down the law, appellants could end up swaying the United States Supreme Court, which maintains a 6-3 conservative majority. Moreover, Chief Justice John Roberts even wrote the majority opinion in the landmark voting rights case that opened the door for bills like SB 202 to become law across the country.

The 2013 Shelby County vs. Holder decision will undoubtedly be remembered in history books with the same level of disdain as the 1857 Dred Scott vs. Sandford decision. Both decisions created false racial hierarchies rendering Black people to second-class citizen status. Whereas Dred Scott declared Black people did not have the rights of citizenship, Shelby County declared that the portion of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 pertaining to protections for Black voters was unconstitutional. This released nine mostly Southern states – Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia – from getting “pre-clearance” from the federal judiciary before changing laws pertaining to voting rights. At the time, Justice Antonin Scalia justified his vote to eliminate those protections by saying the Voting Rights Act created “racial entitlement” for Black voters.

Just days after the Shelby County decision, the League of Women Voters warned that “the floodgates have opened” for widespread voter suppression legislation across the country and called for Congress to pass legislation guaranteeing everyone the right to vote. They were right: according to the Brennan Center for Justice, there are at least 361 bills awaiting action in 47 states that aim to curtail ballot access for voters. Five of those bills have already become law this year, and 29 bills have been passed by at least one legislative chamber. 49 of those bills are in Texas. And in Arizona and Georgia – states with Republican-controlled legislatures where Joe Biden narrowly defeated Donald Trump in the 2020 election – there are 23 and 25 pending voter suppression bills, respectively.

For Democrats, it’s now or never

The best way to beat back this wave of anti-voting bills is to pass federal legislation guaranteeing the absolute right of all citizens to cast a ballot. HR 1, which passed the House in March and is currently awaiting action in the Senate, would go a long way toward advancing that goal. Among other things, the bill would establish automatic voter registration, in which citizens are automatically registered on their state’s voter rolls when getting state-issued driver’s licenses and ID cards. It would also guarantee same-day voter registration for federal elections, which allows citizens to register to vote at their polling precinct on the day of the election. HR 1 also requires states to open up the early voting period at least two weeks before an election.

The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which was introduced in the Senate in the 116th Congress, is the perfect companion to HR 1. That bill restores the preclearance requirement in the Voting Rights Act that was undone by the Shelby County decision, forcing state governments to win approval from the federal bench before changing election laws. The Act also broadens cases in which the Department of Justice can send federal election observers to states that federal courts have deemed necessary to ensure adequate protections are in place for all voters.

While these bills are great antidotes for the wave of voter suppression bills being introduced across the country, they still have yet to overcome the key hurdle of the filibuster. Even though they don’t control the Senate, Republicans can still invoke the filibuster for any non-budgetary legislation, requiring an impenetrable 60-vote threshold first be met before a bill can even get an up-or-down vote. If they had a unified bloc, Democrats could make procedural maneuvers to eliminate the filibuster with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking vote. Centrist Democrat senators like Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema are still currently in favor of keeping the filibuster, dooming voting rights legislation to the legislative graveyard. However, President Joe Biden may be warming to the idea of limiting the power of the filibuster and could even be making moves behind the scenes to eliminate it entirely.

Biden has also notably appointed Gayle Manchin, Joe Manchin’s wife, to a “key position” in the White House, essentially tying Manchin’s family to his administration. It’s difficult to see how this isn’t a maneuver to placate Manchin in an effort to soften the senator’s position on the filibuster (admittedly a tall order given Manchin’s recent op-ed in favor of keeping it). In the event Manchin does eventually flip on the filibuster, Sinema could soon follow, not wanting to be seen as the lone obstacle in the way of significant voting rights expansion.

If Senate Democrats act to eliminate the filibuster, it should be done right away. As The Daily Poster recently pointed out, there are multiple septuagenarian senators from states with Republican governors. Should anything happen to aging senators like Patrick Leahy, Ed Markey, Bernie Sanders, or Elizabeth Warren, any one of them could be replaced with a Republican, abruptly ending Democrats’ control of the Senate and putting Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell back in the driver’s seat.

Democrats will have to decide relatively soon whether they’d rather keep a Jim Crow relic like the filibuster, or have new federal voting rights legislation. If they want any hope of stopping the relentless march of state-level, Republican-led voter suppression efforts, it’s obvious what must be done: Democrats should immediately nuke the filibuster and pass HR 1 and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, or kiss their majorities goodbye.

Carl Gibson is a freelance journalist whose work has been published in CNN, The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Houston Chronicle, Barron’s, The Independent, and NPR, among others. Follow him on Twitter @crgibs.

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Corporations are standing up and defending our democracy from Republican attacks. But we can’t rely on the goodwill of big business to fix the country’s problems.

georgia voting
Demonstrators stand outside of the Georgia Capitol building on March 3, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia.

  • Corporations like Delta Airlines and Major League Baseball are pushing back on Georgia’s new voting law.
  • But the GOP is hitting back, crying that these business decisions in defense of democracy are “cancel culture.”
  • While the actions of big business are encouraging, we can’t rely on corporations to solve America’s problems.
  • Michael Gordon is a longtime Democratic strategist, a former spokesman for the Justice Department, and the principal for the strategic-communications firm Group Gordon.
  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Major League Baseball took a strong, tangible stand against Georgia’s new voting law by moving the All-Star Game from Atlanta to Denver. More than 100 companies and CEOs, including Delta and Coke – two of the biggest businesses to call Atlanta home – matched this action with their words.

This is not the first time that corporations have needed to step forward to take on Republican policy madness – but it’s the latest encapsulation of the sad state of affairs in this country, where companies have a stronger moral compass than our political leaders.

Corporations saving the world

The MLB’s move against Georgia will hopefully serve as a shot across the bow for other states looking to make it harder for Black Americans to vote. While conservatives may cry that these decisions, made by private companies, are “cancel culture” on steroids – the GOP is only narrowing their field of play for future elections by declaring more and more of the country “against” them.

This is not the first time that companies have stepped in when Republican policies have stepped out. The most notable example is guns. As mass shooting after mass shooting after mass shooting has killed our children – Republicans in Washington have put up a bullet-proof roadblock against even common-sense, popular gun safety measures.

While most of America has been appalled by the GOP’s crooked interpretation of the Second Amendment, corporations took the matter into their own hands. Dick’s, the nation’s largest sporting goods retailer, stopped selling firearms at more than 400 of their stores, while Walmart raised the age required to purchase a gun to 21 after the horrific shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida.

As new states pass draconian laws endangering the health and well-being of trans youth, we’re reminded of how corporate pressure can force politicians to change. In 2016, after North Carolina’s passage of the so-called “bathroom bill,” which barred trans people from using the bathroom of their gender identity, numerous corporations took concrete steps to voice their opposition.

The NBA moved its All-Star Game from Charlotte, and PayPal cancelled a plan to expand into North Carolina. After costing their state nearly $4 billion dollars, Republicans repealed the bill, and the GOP governor lost his bid for re-election even as Donald Trump carried the state.

The alt-right attack on a host of issues including voting rights has been mainstreamed by Fox News and other conservative media – but most of the country still believes the right to vote should be expanded, not curtailed. That’s why congenitally cautious corporations can take a moral stand here when they haven’t before.

Actions, not words

To have a real impact, more companies need to take action like the MLB and Dick’s. Statements are insufficient – and wimpy.

Corporations like Coke could donate to voting rights groups and help register voters, like some companies have done. At the very least, the same Georgia companies that spoke out against this attack on Americans’ civil liberties could stop financing the very politicians who put this law into place. Delta has donated more than $25,000 to Gov. Brian Kemp and other Georgia Republicans.

Companies also could choose to move their offices out of states with regressive voting laws or choose not to move there at all. Atlanta has a large entertainment industry that could easily find a home in a state that believes everyone should have easy, secure voting access. Moving to a less oppressive state would serve as a simultaneous economic and moral victory.

The slippery slope

The dramatically escalating national dysfunction led by Washington has brought us to this day. The fact that companies are the new standard bearers for common sense may be powerful today but is concerning long term.

The strength of our polity cannot rely on the moral force of profit. It can be a wakeup call, a force for logic, but it is a cover, not a foundation. Their day job is not to consider the whole. In theory, that responsibility belongs to our electeds. Both teams have failed us, but big business only feels the need to play when the Republicans are at their craziest.

If our leaders continue to falter, it is not sustainable for the basic functions of government to be turned over to corporations, where there is a natural ceiling. So if our politicians are incompetent and our companies are limited, the moment of truth will be when our country faces a crisis that is existential and not just manufactured by the GOP.

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Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp claims the MLB’s voter restriction laws boycott will be a major blow to minority-owned businesses

Brian Kemp
Gov. Brian Kemp (R-Georgia) speaks during an April 3 news conference in Atlanta about Major League Baseball’s decision to move the 2021 All-Star Game over the league’s objection to the state’s new voting law.

  • Georgia Gov. Kemp criticized the MLB for withdrawing its All-Stars game from Atlanta.
  • The MLB decided in response to new voter restriction laws in Georgia.
  • Kemp said the boycott would unfairly impact minority-owned businesses.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp said that a decision by Major League Baseball to move an All-Stars Game from Atlanta in protest at voter restriction laws will disproportionately impact minority-owned businesses.

Kemp made the remarks following the MLB’s decision last Tuesday to pull the game from Atlanta and instead have it played in Denver, Colorado.

The voting rules signed into law by Kemp in March have been likened by critics to the Jim Crow laws that enforced segregation in the South, who say that disproportionately impacts Black voters.

Kemp has defended the laws, claiming they ensure election security, and has pointed to Democrat-controlled states where they are more restrictive. And in comments Saturday he criticized the MLB for the stance it has taken.

“It’s minority-owned businesses that have been hit harder than most because of an invisible virus by no fault of their own,” Kemp said, as quoted by the Associated Press. “And these are the same minority businesses that are now being impacted by another decision that is by no fault of their own,” he added.

The claim that the MLB’s boycott, and opposition to the voting laws by corporations including Coc-Cola and Delta, will end up damaging Black communities economically has emerged as a key Republican response to criticism of the laws.

Last week former Fox News personality Eric Bolling stormed out of a BBC interview when challenged about the argument by political commentator Aisha Mills.

But Democratic activist and gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, who is credited with devising the strategy that allowed the Democrats to flip the state in 2020, has also reportedly opposed the decision by the MLB to pull the game out of the state.

According toAtlanta Journal Constitution reporter Greg Bluestein Abrams, a strong opponent of the voter restriction laws, spoke to a senior MLB official last week and urged them not to cancel the game.

Victor Matheson, an economics professor at the College of the Holy Cross, in comments to The Guardian last week questioned said claims by some Atlanta officials that the cancellation could result in the loss of $100 million in revenue were overblown.

“There is some loss, so it’s not zero, but it’s a whole lot closer to zero than the $100m number Atlanta was throwing around,” he remarked.

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Corporate America wants to avoid higher taxes and social issues. That’s not likely to happen.

Biden
President Joe Biden.

  • For years, America’s biggest companies have steered clear of politics, except for hefty donations.
  • Now, there’s more of an expectation for them to speak out, just as they face a big tax increase.
  • Companies probably don’t want a tax increase, and seem mixed on responding to it.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Corporate America is going through growing pains on political activism – but it’s still trying to fight off higher taxes. In the Biden era, the two may go hand in hand.

Long apolitical, the dynamic that emerged during the Trump years of big business weighing in on hot-button social issues has, if anything, accelerated in 2021, as reflected in the recent corporate outcry against Georgia’s recent legislation to restrict voting rights.

At nearly the same time, corporate America has been far less aligned with the progressive agenda of funding a large infrastructure and jobs plan with a boost to the corporate tax rate. In fact, only fours ago, in 2017, the business community cheered its biggest win on taxes in decades under former President Donald Trump, when the corporate rate was slashed from 35% all the way down to 21%.

As part of his $2.3 trillion infrastructure package. Biden wants to jack the corporate tax rate up to 28%. It represents a hit to corporate profits and many influential business groups are staunchly opposed to it, along with congressional Republicans.

The Chamber of Commerce’s chief policy officer, Neil Bradley, said the organization “agrees with the Biden administration that there is a great need to invest in American infrastructure and that ‘inaction is simply not an option.'” However, he added, “that doesn’t mean we should proceed with tax hikes that will hurt American businesses and cost American jobs.”

And Josh Bolten, chief executive officer of Business Roundtable, told Bloomberg TV on Thursday that Biden should stick with “real infrastructure” like roads and bridges – and he was “strongly against” the corporate tax hike.

Some individual business leaders are coming out in favor of Biden’s tax increase. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has said that the company is supportive of a rise in the corporate tax rate, although he didn’t specify what rate he supports. Lyft president and cofounder John Zimmer has thrown his support behind the 28% rate.

Many other companies are staying tight-lipped about how, exactly, they feel – while perhaps complaining in private, as reported by Politico.

Jeff Bezos
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.

Corporate taxes seen as a ‘less charged issue’

The corporate response on taxes is a sharp break from the outcry over Georgia. An open letter from 72 Black executives last week was quickly followed by another joint statement from over 170 business leaders urging state lawmakers against “imposing barriers that result in longer lines at the polls or that reduce access to secure ballot dropboxes.”

Companies in the latest letter included Microsoft, HP and Dow.

Vanessa Burbano, an assistant professor of management at Columbia Business School, said the phenomenon of companies taking political stances is relatively new. She said what companies do choose to speak out publicly about varies – although a handful of companies releasing their own statements does put pressure on others.

Doug Schuler, a professor of business and public policy at Rice University, argued the letter from Black CEOs opened the door for other prominent business figures to take a similar step.

He told Insider that his sense of what CEOS were trying to do was “to make statements to their customers, to their workforce, and perhaps investors they are sensitive to these social issues – it’s an issue they should be on the right side of.”

Agreeing to pay more in taxes to fund Biden’s plan to “build back better,” though? Many CEOs don’t want to be on the right side of that.

The corporate tax rate is “a less charged issue than some of the others that we’ve seen companies take stances on in the past, like including what happened in Georgia, including things related to immigration or LGBTQ rights or things like this that are sort of influence the individual stakeholder much more directly,” Burbano said.

Rep. Don Beyer
Rep Don Beyer.

Politicians are also divided

Sen. Joe Manchin, a moderate Democrat who’s a key vote in the Senate, has expressed his concerns over raising the rate to 28%. He’s more in favor of a 25% rate – and his support will prove pivotal to the eventual passage of any plan as Democrats grapple with slim majorities in Congress.

“Claims that American businesses cannot compete with a corporate tax rate above 28% ignore the clear and indisputable evidence to the contrary,” Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA), Chairman of the US Congress Joint Economic Committee and member of the House Ways and Means Committee, said in a statement to Insider.

He added: “It’s good to see support for a reasonable increase in the rate from business leaders as well as former top Republican economic adviser Gary Cohn,” referring to remarks made just last year by Trump’s former National Economic Council director that, actually, 28% would have been a decent place to arrive at in the 2017 tax law.

Republicans have repeatedly made their opposition to tax hikes clear. Top Republicans also blasted companies for wading into the country’s hot-button issues like voting rights.

“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,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement. “Corporations will invite serious consequences if they become a vehicle for far-left mobs to hijack our country from outside the constitutional order.”

Experts like Schuler said large companies won’t weigh into every social issue unless the pressure to do so becomes impossible to cast aside. He pointed out that large businesses hadn’t weighed in on another set of proposed voting restrictions in Texas.

“To some extent, I think businesspeople want these issues to go away,” he said. “They hate it when the spotlight is on them.”

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