Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Wednesday walked back a “warning” he had issued to corporations earlier in the week to “stay out of politics.”
At an event in Louisville on Tuesday, when asked about several corporations’ denouncements of Republican-backed efforts to restrict voting access in Georgia, McConnell said he thought it was “stupid” for companies like Delta, Coca-Cola and Major League Baseball to wade into political issues.
“My warning, if you will, to corporate America is to stay out of politics. It’s not what you’re designed for,” McConnell said. “And don’t be intimidated by the left into taking up causes that put you right in the middle of one of America’s greatest political debates.”
However, moments later, McConnell noted that he still felt corporations were still within their rights to donate to political campaigns.
“I’m not talking about political contributions,” McConnell said. “…I’m talking about taking a position on a highly incendiary issue like this.”
McConnell’s comments invited scorn from fellow federal lawmakers, who pointed out the fact that a financial contribution can still have political ramification.
McConnell thinks corporations should stay out of politics. Especially on the "highly incendiary issue" of... the right to vote.— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) April 6, 2021
But McConnell also asks corporations to pour money into Republican political campaigns so they can suppress voters and stay in power.
How convenient. https://t.co/rcIBmx7Joj
Funny. He desperately wants corporations to be people (see Citizens United) with First Amendment rights when it comes to campaign cash. .. just not for any other type of speech. https://t.co/LTPbYpxjfP— Claire McCaskill (@clairecmc) April 5, 2021
According to the New York Times and Insider, McConnell walked back his comments on Wednesday at an event in Paducah, Kentucky, instead insisting that CEOs who denounced the voter restriction bill in Georgia didn’t read the legislation.
“I didn’t say that very artfully yesterday,” McConnell conceded. “They are certainly entitled to be involved in politics. So my complaint about the CEOs: Read the damn bill.”
The Washington Post notes that McConnell released a statement praising the Supreme Court following their decision in the Citizens United case in 2010, noting that that corporate America for too long “had been deprived of full participation in the political process.”
In the Citizens United case, the Supreme Court ruled that the government did not have the right to limit political expenditures from independent corporations.
According to Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy group, Delta, Coca-Cola and other corporations who publicly denounced Georgia’s restrictive bill also donated millions of dollars collectively to the lawmakers who backed the legislation.