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Zirpoli: Politicians want corporate money, not their opinion | COMMENTARY

After years of stating that American corporations should have the same political rights as individuals, with the ability to engage in national politics and donate their resources to individual candidates and political action committees (PACs), Republicans are now telling corporations to shut up, or else.

Specifically, Republicans want corporations to be quiet about new Republican voter suppression laws. In Georgia, for example, Republicans pushed through new voter identification requirements, gave state legislators the power to take over local election boards if they disagree with election results, reduced the number of ballot drop boxes within cities, and limited access to drop boxes to state offices so that citizens will not have access to them after working hours. Also, the timeline for requesting and returning absentee ballots has been cut by more than half.

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Some Republicans believe these restrictions expand voting opportunities in Georgia. These must be the same folks who believe that the January 6 rioters were peaceful demonstrators.

Sen. Mitch McConnell wants corporations to “stay out of politics” which is rich for a man that has accepted more political donations from corporations and their CEOs in 2020 than any other senator. He quickly added that he was not “talking about political contributions” because they are “fine, it’s legal, it’s appropriate. I support that.” 

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I bet he does. After all, according to Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, McConnell received over $4.3 million in corporation PAC donations in the 2020 cycle. He also received $258,880 from 37 CEOs of S&P 500 companies in 2020, according to Market Watch.

McConnell told the business community, “Businesses must not use economic blackmail to spread disinformation and push bad ideas that citizens reject at the ballot box.”

So let’s unpack that statement. First, isn’t McConnell using blackmail and threats against these businesses who dare to speak up for voting rights? Second, isn’t it Republicans who are spreading “disinformation” about voting fraud during the 2020 presidential election? Third, didn’t the citizens of Georgia “reject at the ballot box” the Republican presidential nominee and the two Republican Senate nominees in 2020. Isn’t that why Republicans are changing the rules for voting?

As stated by Ashley Pratte of USA Today, Republicans trying to quiet corporate America is “an ironic turn of events given the fact that Republicans are supposed to be the party that supports capitalism, free markets, and free speech.”

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Evidently, Republicans want their corporate campaign donations but are not much interested in their corporate opinions. I call that taxation without representation. Pay up, but shut up.

Republicans are angry at Delta Air Lines, Coca-Cola, American Air Lines, Major League Baseball, and other companies based in Georgia and Texas, for supporting voting rights. They were already angry at the National Football League for players kneeling in protest of police killings of unarmed Black men. It seems some people would prefer their sports teams to just play ball and not remind them of American injustices during the national anthem. One might think that for some white folks these players are athletic slaves without human rights, performing for their entertainment. Free speech does not apply to them. How dare they stand up (or kneel) for our national values.

Republicans are now saying that they will challenge the special tax status of many of these corporations if they dare to speak up against Republican voter suppression laws. To that Democrats say, finally!

Under the previous administration, McConnell and his fellow Republicans passed massive tax cuts for American corporations in 2017, reducing the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21%, a nice 40% tax cut. In addition, Republicans gave them additional tax breaks so that, according to The New York Times, “at least 55 of American’s largest” corporations “paid no taxes last year on billions of dollars in profits.” Twenty-six of the companies avoided paying any federal income tax for the last three years.

So, yes, I hope Republicans do cut the tax breaks corporations receive so they can start paying their fair share. But they will not. They are too reliant on those corporate donations.

Meanwhile, President Joe Biden is proposing that all corporations pay some taxes while they enjoy the benefits of doing business in America. Don’t they use our roads? Don’t they enjoy the freedom and protection our military provides?  Shouldn’t they pay for some of these benefits?  A majority of Americans think they should.

McConnell wants the baker to bake his cake and mind his own business. Now that’s an interesting turn of events.

Tom Zirpoli is program coordinator of the Human Services Management graduate program at McDaniel College. He writes from Westminster. His column appears Wednesdays. Email him at tzirpoli@mcdaniel.edu.

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