Expect Major Pushback From CEOs on Voting Laws

More than 100 business leaders talk strategy on Zoom call, despite McConnell warning
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 12, 2021 9:40 AM CDT
Despite McConnell Warning, CEOs Plan Defiant Response
A 2018 photo of American Express Chairman and CEO Kenneth Chenault.   (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

Last week, Mitch McConnell warned American businesses to stay out of politics amid the fallout over Georgia's new voting restrictions. CEOs do not appear to be heeding the warning. Coverage:

  • The call: The Washington Post reports that more than 100 chief executives and corporate leaders spoke on a Zoom call over the weekend to discuss a coordinated response against similar laws under consideration in other states.
  • A statement: CEOs Kenneth Chenault of American Express and Kenneth Frazier of Merck urged the others to sign a statement condemning what they view as discriminatory legislation, and the Wall Street Journal reports that such a statement could be out this week. Last month, Frazier and Chenault coordinated a response specifically from Black executives, per the New York Times, and this new effort is an expansion of that.
  • Defiance: The Zoom call shows that CEOs "are not going to be intimidated," says Yale management professor Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, one of the organizers. "They felt very strongly that these voting restrictions are based on a flawed premise and are dangerous."

  • Participants: Companies including PepsiCo, PayPal, Levi Strauss, Delta, American Airlines, LinkedIn, Starbucks, Target, AMC Entertainment, and Hess Corp. were represented on the call. Also present was NFL owner Arthur Blank of the Atlanta Falcons, reports Axios.
  • Punishments: The upshot of the meeting is that top CEOs "plan to get dramatically tougher" on state lawmakers who enact new voting rules, writes Mike Allen of Axios. That could take the form of revoked contributions and scrapped plans to invest in factories and other projects.
  • Not going away: The Journal notes that the issue is almost guaranteed to continue growing in controversy, given that more than 350 voting bills are under consideration in dozens of states.
(More CEOs stories.)

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