Roughly 100 of America’s top corporate leaders and CEOs gathered both in-person and virtually on Saturday to strategize ways to combat new election integrity laws like Georgia’s H.B. 531. Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, a Yale University management professor who helped organize the meeting, framed it as a response to threats of reprisals after Georgia-based companies like Delta Air Lines, Coca-Cola, and Aflac Insurance condemned the Georgia bill. He called election integrity measures “anti-undemocratic.”
“The gathering was an enthusiastic voluntary statement of defiance against threats of reprisals for exercising their patriotic voices,” Sonnenfeld told CBS News. The corporate leaders “recognize that they need to step up to the plate and are not fearful of these reprisals. They’re showing a disdain for these political attacks. Not only are they fortifying each other, but they see that this spreading disease of to up to possibly 46 other states is based on a false premise and its’ anti-democratic.”
Former President Donald Trump called for a boycott of Delta, Coca-Cola, and Major League Baseball (MLB) and other companies after they condemned the Georgia law, repeating Democratic talking points that smeared the legislation. “Boycott all of the woke companies that don’t want Voter I.D. and Free and Fair Elections,” Trump said in a statement last week.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) also condemned the companies for spreading misinformation about the bill. He briefly suggested reprisals for companies that smeared the legislation, and then withdrew his threat.
Contrary to Sonnenfeld’s claim, election integrity laws are not “based on a false premise” and they are not “un-democratic.” While some have claimed that Joe Biden won the presidential election due to fraud, the reality is far more complicated. Biden most likely won with the most legal votes, but last-minute election changes and cash infusions from the Center for Tech and Civic Life tilted the playing field in his favor. Voters are rightly concerned about election integrity and the new laws represent a response to these abuses — not an attack on legal voting.
CTCL sent funds to election offices in blue areas, ramping up turnout that benefitted Joe Biden. Georgia’s new law rightly makes this practice illegal. The law also requires voters to present a valid photo ID to register for an absentee ballot. The Washington Post gave President Joe Biden four Pinocchios for repeatedly claiming that the Georgia law “ends voting hours early.” In fact, the bill extended voting hours.
According to a recent poll from the Honest Elections Project, 77 percent of Americans support requiring an ID to vote. This includes majorities of self-identified Biden voters (62 percent to 24 percent opposed), black voters (64 percent to 22 percent opposed), and Latino voters (78 percent to 16 percent opposed). Most voters (64 percent) said they want to strengthen voting safeguards to prevent fraud, rather than eliminate them to make voting “easier.” Even majorities of black voters (51 percent), Hispanic voters (66 percent), urban voters (59 percent), and Independent voters (61 percent) agreed.
Yet the Democratic-legacy media echo chamber has been blasting the false narrative that Georgia’s new law is a racist attempt to prevent black voters from going to the polls. Biden has condemned the law as “Jim Crow on steroids,” even though Georgia’s election laws are far less stringent than those of Biden’s home state of Delaware or MLB’s home state of New York.
The CBS News report on the CEO gathering illustrates this leftist bias. CBS News cited the Brennan Center for Justice, an organization dedicated to the values of left-leaning Supreme Court Justice William Brennan, the “father of modern judicial activism.” While the group purports to be “nonpartisan,” it has received substantial funding from organizations associated with George Soros and other leftist groups.
The Brennan Center frames the 361 bills to further election integrity, proposed in 47 states, as measures “that would restrict voting access.” At least 55 of the bills are moving through legislatures in 24 states. Twenty-nine have passed one chamber, and five bills have been signed into law. Sonnenfeld’s number of states considering these bills — 47 — seems to trace back to the Brennan Center.
To launch the CEO meeting, Sonnenfeld teamed up with Lynn Forester de Rothschild, the founding partner of Inclusive Capital Partners — a left-leaning investment manager — and Leadership Now, a group of Harvard University alumni and corporate leaders that claims to focus on sustaining democracy.
“We invited 120 CEO’s with about 50 hours notice. We were praying for 25 and we got 90 CEO’s and another 30 invited guests including legal experts, technology experts and historians,” Sonnenfeld told CBS News. He said the CEOs united to combat the backlash that Delta and Coca-Cola faced.
“These CEOs said, ‘Enough of that, we’re going to come together and reinforce our fellow CEOs.’ It was a statement of affirmation that the voice of business in the political world is worthwhile,” he said.
Some CEOs joined the Zoom conference from Augusta National Golf Course, the site of the Masters PGA golf tournament, while others joined remotely. Attendees included NFL Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank; James Murdoch, the son of Rupert Murdoch; AMC Theaters CEO Adam Aron; law firm chairman Brad Karp; Ariel Investments co-CEO Mellody Hobson; Walmart CEO Doug McMillon; United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby; American Airlines CEO Doug Parker; Levi Strauss Company Chairman Chip Bergh; LinkedIN CEO Reid Hoffman; and others.
Former American Express CEO Kenneth Chenault and Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier spoke on the call, among others. Frazier helped organize the 72 current and former black CEOs who blasted the Georgia bill in a joint statement.
“Obviously there’s been a big wake up call over the last few weeks. The business community doesn’t want to be caught on their heels about this. So it’s about protecting leadership and not missing out on an opportunity to do so,” an anonymous source told CBS News.
The meeting reportedly ended without any concrete game plan or timetable but with a general plan to draft responses to election integrity laws on a firm-by-firm basis.
Sources from the meeting told CBS News that the CEOs discussed McConnell’s comments but they generally mocked the senator’s stance.
“There was humor and mockery about that,” one participant told CBS News. This source add that another person on the call “made a reference to ‘just give us your money and stay quiet.’ Another said, ‘isn’t it ironic who’s talking about cancel culture?’”
“It wasn’t a primary area of discussion,” another participant said of McConnell’s comments, “but certainly everyone is cognizant of it and aware of it. In no way was he an impetus for this – talk of doing this meeting started before he spoke out.”
While it has been harrowing to see MLB pull out of Georgia and so many CEOs condemn a state based on utter lies about election integrity laws, it seems the forces of woke capitalism are gathering to launch an all-out assault on measures like voter ID and attempts to address the irregularities in the 2020 election. Conservatives cannot back down. We need to explain why the Left’s narrative about these laws is dead wrong and we need to put pressure on CEOs who mobilize against election integrity.