Bad politicians should be held accountable by the American people, not by corporations

For the People ACt Nancy Pelosi steps of Capitol
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi delivers remarks on H.R. 1, For the People Act, on the steps of Capitol Hill on March 3, 2021.

  • After the Capitol attack, many corporations pulled funding from politicians who supported Trump.
  • Some of the companies are already changing course, showing that it was likely a PR stunt.
  • Americans cannot rely on corporations to speak for them. Congress needs to pass the For the People Act to amplify Americans’ voices.
  • Eric Lutz writes for Vanity Fair and the Guardian, among other publications.
  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

After a MAGA mob stormed the United States Capitol in January in an effort to overturn the 2020 election results, the corporate world quickly worked to distance itself from Donald Trump and other Republicans who had helped instigate the riot.

Companies, from Goldman Sachs to Walmart, suspended political donations. The Chamber of Commerce, typically a cash cow for the GOP, promised to withhold money from lawmakers who promoted Trump’s “Big Lie.” And, in perhaps the most personal blow to the former president, the PGA pulled its 2022 championship from Trump’s Bedminster, New Jersey golf club. “The US business community has interests fully in alignment with the American public,” one professor in Yale’s management school told USA Today amid the exodus, “and not with Trump’s autocratic bigoted wing of the GOP.”

That was, in retrospect, a rather optimistic take on what was transpiring. But one can be forgiven for taking heart in the corporate retreat: Lawmakers obviously wouldn’t expel Sen. Josh Hawley, one of the lawmakers who helped spearhead the objection to the election results. Trump’s second impeachment trial was sure to end with another acquittal. But perhaps, at the very least, there’d be some financial consequences. The private sector would speak, and it would say: Get lost.

But the corporate pullback was never going to last, because it was never really about accountability. In the immediate aftermath of the deadly siege, it was a bad look to be associated with the politicians who egged on the pro-Trump rioters. But for some of corporate America, the commitment lasted only as long as the country’s political memory, which is to say, not very.

Just a PR move?

As Popular Information reported earlier this week, several corporations that had distanced themselves from politicians whose actions didn’t align with their “company values” had quickly – and quietly – reversed course. Intel donated to the National Republican Campaign Committee. AT&T and Cigna each contributed funds to organizations run by GOP objectors to Joe Biden’s victory.

That’s just three of five dozen corporations that vowed to pull political donations, either entirely or from Republicans alone. But, Bloomberg News reported recently, more are likely to follow in the coming months. While some objectors, including Hawley, will likely remain on a “no-fly list,” Bloomberg reported that the retreat was “never meant to be a shutdown of the Wall Street money machine.” Not every firm has reneged on its promise, but for many, the change wasn’t meant to be permanent.

“There was a feeling that companies need to take a stand, and that was probably met with a concern about the brand,” Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, told Bloomberg. “If companies so quickly and easily backtrack on the PAC suspension, it will prove to be a PR move.”

If it does, the fact that it was such a seductive move is telling. American voices are so muted in the corridors of power that it is perhaps only natural to take heart in the notion that companies will speak for us. Corporations should be applauded for standing up for American values and following through, but that alone is not an effective mechanism of accountability, nor is it a reliable one. Bad politicians should be held accountable by the American people, and Americans should be empowered to do so.

Hope in a bill

There’s some hope for that in the For the People Act, which passed the House earlier this month. The bill, sponsored by Democrat John Sarbanes, would not only expand voting rights in America, safeguarding these rights against GOP suppression efforts that have recently found footing in Georgia, it would also significantly dilute the influence of big money in politics by strengthening the power of small donations. The bill ideally would make politicians more accountable to the people they represent as opposed to corporate and big dollar benefactors.

But without amending or abolishing the filibuster, the bill stands no chance of passing in the Senate. President Biden has recently thrown his support behind restoring the “talking filibuster,” which requires a senator to actually speak the whole time on the Senate floor and thus makes its use more difficult. Republicans, though, have suggested they’d be willing to do that to defeat the Democrats’ election bill. “There is no amount of time that I will not dedicate on the Senate floor to stopping the Democrats from passing this kind of radical legislation,” GOP Senator Tom Cotton told reporters recently.

Democrats must therefore be prepared to take even more aggressive action against the filibuster to pass the For the People Act and amplify Americans’ voices in the two venues they’re best heard: in the ballot box and in the campaign coffers. Accountability should not be dependent on the whims of big dollar donors or the demands of companies’ bottom lines.

Read the original article on Business Insider

People are boycotting Publix because a member of its founding family gave $300,000 to the Trump rally that led to the January 6 Capitol riots

trump us capitol siege
Trump supporters gather outside the U.S. Capitol building following a “Stop the Steal” rally on January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC.

  • People are boycotting Publix after heiress Julie Jenkins Fancelli was unmasked as a top donor to the January 6 Trump rally.
  • Fancelli is not a Publix employee but is set to inherit from the $8.8 billion founding family’s fortune.
  • Fancelli contributed most of the roughly $500,000 total raised for the “Stop the Steal” rally, the WSJ reported.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

People are calling for a boycott of Publix after the Wall Street Journal unmasked an heiress to the Southern grocery empire as the top donor to the Trump rally that led to the Capitol riots on January 6.

Julie Jenkins Fancelli, an heiress to the Publix founding family’s nearly $9 billion fortune, has previously donated millions to Republican causes and candidates. On January 30, the WSJ reported Fancelli as having contributed $300,000 out of the roughly $500,000 total raised for Trump’s now-infamous “Stop the Steal” rally.

Publix has a dedicated fanbase, but Fancelli’s contribution to the rally was the last straw for many loyal customers, The Guardian reported Monday. On Monday, the hashtag #BoycottPublix was trending on Twitter, with many users expressing outrage and claiming betrayal over Fancelli’s donation.

Fancelli’s donation was facilitated by far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, who himself donated $50,000 to the rally that led to the deaths of five people, the Journal reported.

After the riots, corporations raced to cut ties with former president Trump and to end donations to political candidates that supported Trump’s attempt to overturn the election.

After the publication of the WSJ article, Publix rapidly distanced itself from Fancelli in a Twitter statement, and said it did not employ her.

Fancelli is still president of the George Jenkins Foundation, Inc., Publix founder George Jenkins’s charity, which is not affiliated with the grocery chain. Since posting the statement on January 30, the Publix Twitter account – which previously posted around once a day – has been uncharacteristically silent.

This isn’t the first time Publix has courted controversy over its political donations. It came under fire after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis awarded the chain an exclusive vaccine distribution contract. This followed the Publix PAC donating $100,000 donation to his campaign – a spokeswoman for DeSantis said any implication that the contract was a reward for the donation was “baseless and ridiculous,” per the Lakeland Ledger.

Leaders from predominantly Black communities throughout the state also criticized the contract, saying it deprived many Black Floridians of the chance to get vaccinated.

Read the original article on Business Insider