“Corporations will invite serious consequences if they become a vehicle for far-left mobs to hijack our country from outside the constitutional order,” warned McConnell, adding: “Businesses must not use economic blackmail to spread disinformation and push bad ideas that citizens reject at the ballot box.”
Whoa! A prominent Republican blasting corporate America — long the fundraising lifeblood of the GOP? Holy moly!
But, upon further review, there’s actually an explanation for all of this. And, yes, it has everything to do with politics.
Start here: There’s no question that the populist revolutionary vision of the Republican Party pushed by former President Donald Trump has put the Grand Old Party more at odds with its long-standing business allies than at any point in modern political memory.
The US Chamber of Commerce was openly leery of Trump’s nativist immigration policies. And lots and lots of companies were sufficiently spooked by the insurrection at the US capitol on January 6 that they promised to avoid donating to any Republican politician who voted to object to the Electoral College vote.
The controversy over the new Georgia law, which opponents say will make it harder for voters in the state to cast ballots, was the latest domino to fall in the seeming breakup of big business and the GOP. MLB’s decision to pull the All-Star Game out of Atlanta — coupled with scolding statements by the likes of Delta and Coca-Cola (after some initial hemming and hawing) — led to praise from Democrats and scorn from the Trump wing of the party.
“Boycott all of the woke companies that don’t want Voter I.D. and Free and Fair Elections,” said the former President in a statement Tuesday morning. (And, no, I have no idea why “Free” and “Fair Elections” are capitalized in that statement. Literally none.)
So, that is all true. But don’t be fooled into believing that corporate America and the Republican Party are going to be breaking up in any meaningful way for any significant amount of time.
Here’s why: Corporations know that Republicans, generally speaking, will look to protect their long-term interests (and by that I mean, uh, money) far better than the Democratic Party. And Republican politicians — very much including McConnell — know that they need the financial contributions of corporations to fund their campaigns, particularly as they seek to retake the House and Senate majorities they lost during the Trump era.
Just one example, courtesy of the Center for Responsive Politics: The 147 Republicans who objected to the Electoral College results raised $68 million from business PACs in just the 2020 election alone.
Let’s not forget that McConnell has been the face of opposition to campaign finance reform for, well, as long as there have been efforts to reduce the role of money in politics. McConnell gushed with praised for the Supreme Court landmark Citizens United ruling in 2010, which allowed corporations to make independent expenditures in political campaigns: “For too long, some in this country have been deprived of full participation in the political process … the Constitution protects their right to express themselves about political candidates and issues up until Election Day,” he said in part. And when the Supreme Court considered revisiting the Citizens United ruling in 2012, McConnell wrote a brief to the court arguing against such a move.
Corporate America is well aware of McConnell’s past record in pushing for them to spend their dollars on campaigns. (Just as McConnell is well aware of how many corporate dollars have been spent in support of Republican candidates since 2010.)
And here’s something else corporate America knows: President Joe Biden has proposed raising the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28% to finance his $2 trillion infrastructure plan. Guess who opposes that plan vehemently? None other than Mitch McConnell and his Republican colleagues!
“I’m going to fight them every step of the way, because I think this is the wrong prescription for America,” McConnell said of the infrastructure bill. (Guess who dropped the corporate tax rate from 35% to its current 21%? Yes, Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell and congressional Republicans — as part of the 2018 tax cut package!)
So, given all of that, here’s what McConnell is up to. He knows that corporate America is entirely bottom-line focused — as in, what way can it keep as much of its money as possible. And that corporations believe — and have ample reason from the past to believe — that the Republican Party is the party most likely to make that happen.
Which means that attacking corporations — and throwing a bone to the Trump populists with a nod to supposed “cancel culture” — amounts to a freebie for McConnell. He knows corporations aren’t going to walk away from the GOP because he’s issuing vague threats to them over the reaction to the Georgia election law. And if they do blanch at his critique, McConnell can just have his office crunch a few numbers on the difference in their bottom line between a 21% corporate tax rate and a 28% one to remind them.
That’s McConnell’s ultimate Trump — ahem — card on corporations. And they know it.