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Republicans want to make ‘woke’ corporations pay — literally



Republicans want to make 'woke' corporations pay — literally

“Boycotts may or may not work, but what will work is to identify every unique benefit these woke companies get under the law and remove them and require they operate as all other companies in those states have to,” Vought added.

The increasingly aggressive pushback against politically outspoken companies is the latest, and perhaps purest, illustration of a party at a philosophical crossroads. Republicans spent decades aligning themselves with the business community and its preferences for lower taxes and fewer regulations. During the 2017 GOP tax reform push, the party slashed the corporate rate from 35 to 21 percent. In return, they have been bolstered with industry money and political support. Now, however, they’re betting that they can win on a backlash to the idea that political correctness has entered the boardroom and is irreversibly damaging conservative causes.

For Trump alumni like Vought and other conservatives who have soured on big business, the sudden enthusiasm for their cause has been a welcome development. Still, many conservatives remain skeptical that the newly-coordinated campaign portends a seismic shift for Republicans. There is, for example, no appetite to embrace a corporate tax hike as proposed by President Joe Biden to pay for infrastructure spending. But while it may not be the end of the marriage for Republicans and big business, even they see it as the beginning of a volatile patch in the relationship

“Old habits are hard to break. There are legislators who have served in office for 30 years and this is like learning a new language for them,” said Rachel Bovard, senior director of policy at the Conservative Partnership Institute. “They still think profit motives drive these companies and it’s not in their interest to punish conservatives. But you’re seeing younger senators and office holders speak out on this and it will shape their politics moving forward.”

The roots of this friction started during Donald Trump’s presidency, when the White House would occasionally launch into cultural slap-fights that advanced the president’s personal, political, and business whims; and conservative TV hosts encouraged boycotts of companies that seemed amenable to liberal pressure campaigns.

But it has accelerated during Trump’s post-presidency, with Republicans making use of the law to punish corporate entities that they feel have crossed them. The most prominent case came a week ago when Delta publicly condemned Georgia’s new, GOP-authored voting law that civil rights groups say will impose difficult new requirements for absentee and mail-in voting and disproportionately disenfranchise voters of color. Soon after Delta CEO Ed Bastian decried the legislation as “unacceptable,” Georgia House Republicans voted to rescind a lucrative fuel tax break for the company. The measure failed when state senators declined to take it up on the last day of their legislative session.

On Friday, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick lambasted American Airlines over the company’s opposition to a GOP proposal to adjust voting hours and grant state leaders more authority over local elections, among other changes. The measure, which has yet to advance out of the state legislature, was also condemned by Dell Technologies.

“Texans are fed up with corporations that don’t share our values trying to dictate public policy,” Patrick wrote in a lengthy statement.

Then came the Major League Baseball association’s announcement that it was yanking its annual All-Star Game from Atlanta’s stadium to protest the Georgia voting overhaul. Trump urged his MAGA followers to boycott America’s favorite pastime, as well as a host of other companies that had criticized the voting law, “until they relent,” while Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp accused the MLB of succumbing to “cancel culture.” Other Republicans accused the MLB and Delta of engaging in a faux outrage campaign, noting that both companies maintain business ties with China despite its well-documented history of human rights abuses.

“Will Major League Baseball now end its engagement with nations that do not hold elections at all like China and Cuba?” Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, one of the Senate’s leading China hawks, wrote in a letter to MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred on Monday.

But, once again, it wasn’t just charges of hypocrisy or boycotts on the menu. Within hours, prominent GOP voices — from Donald Trump Jr. to Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) — had proposed terminating the baseball league’s century-old antitrust exemption, which classifies the MLB as a sport and not a business. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) followed up on Monday morning with a warning of his own. There would, he said, be “serious consequences” if corporate America continues acting like “a woke parallel government.”

A spokesperson for McConnell declined to clarify what the Kentucky Republican meant by “serious consequences.” The Chamber of Commerce, a pro-business lobbying organization that has mostly supported Republican candidates and legislation in the past, though increasingly backed Democrats, did not respond to a request for comment.

The aggressive public pressure campaign by conservatives aimed at influencing corporate behavior is putting corporations in the uncomfortable position of having to straddle both the left’s calls for social justice and the right’s unexpected threats to their bottom line. Some Republicans say they are simply taking a page from the Democrats’ playbook — just as progressives called for a boycott on Equinox gyms after its CEO donated to Trump or a ban on the In-N-Out burger chain after its founder donated to the California Republican Party.

“After two decades of the left being on offense, normal people are starting to fight back and say if these are the rules of the game we are going to play too,” said former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich. “I think that’s [Republicans] saying, ‘oh you want to pick a fight with me? This is what a fight is going to be like.’”

But there are also concerns Republicans will get stuck in a never-ending tit-for-tat that will damage long-standing ties to the business community. GOP lawmakers have, so far, only targeted companies on individual bases and not industries as a whole. Rubio, for example, said he would support a unionization effort at a Amazon factory in Alabama, not because he viewed it as critical for labor rights but because it would expose the e-commerce giant’s hypocrisy as a supposedly high-minded company.

“I wish companies would take the Michael Jordan approach to politics and recognize that Republicans and Democrats both buy shoes, we all fly on the same airplanes,” said former Republican congressman and Fox News contributor Jason Chaffetz.

“I think Republicans as a whole would be better to point to [Opportunity Zones] as a better long term solution for everyone as opposed to trying to fight Coke and Delta one battle at a time. It’s just silly at some point,” Chaffetz said.

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‘A nicer version of Trump’: GOP donors flock to DeSantis




'A nicer version of Trump': GOP donors flock to DeSantis

POLITICO’s Holly Otterbein reports on how Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman’s Senate run has become an inflection point in the Democratic party. Plus, Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she won’t bring progressive “court packing” legislation to the floor. And House Minority Leader McCarthy meets with scandal-ridden Rep. Matt Gaetz.

The enthusiasm was on full display during DeSantis’ appearance at last weekend’s Republican National Committee donor gala in Palm Beach, Fla., where he drew wild applause for declaring the party needed figures who withstood public pressure and weren’t afraid to confront what he called the “elite, New York corporate media.”

The governor was mobbed over the course of the weekend. Joanne Zervos, a New York City donor who spoke with DeSantis during the conference, said many contributors saw him as “a nicer version of Trump,” someone who had embraced the former president’s policies but lacked his rough edges. Zervos said she was drawn to the governor because of his approach to dealing with the coronavirus.

DeSantis last week also made a surprise appearance at a donor retreat convened by the Conservative Partnership Institute, an organization overseen by Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and former Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.). The event was held at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach. During his appearances last week, some attendees approached him and encouraged him to run in 2024.

Whether DeSantis’ popularity among donors is lasting or fleeting remains an open question. The 2024 nominating contest is a long way off, and other would-be candidates have also developed close relationships with contributors. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) was also well-received at the RNC retreat, according to attendees. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) has previously drawn financial support from hedge fund manager Paul Singer, one of the party’s most sought-after givers. Pence spent years cultivating big contributors, many of whom were uncomfortable with Trump but saw the then-vice president as an ally within the administration.

For now, DeSantis aides insist that the 42-year-old governor is focused squarely on running for reelection and hasn’t begun thinking about the presidential contest, something they have been trying to remind donors. The governor faces a potentially challenging 2022 contest against Democratic state Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, who is expected to enter the race soon.

But DeSantis’ aggressive courtship of national givers bears striking similarities to the approach then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush used in his 1998 reelection race, which preceded his presidential bid two years later. Bush spent the 1998 campaign traveling the country and introducing himself to the Republican Party’s biggest donors, many of whom contributed to his reelection effort and later became key to his 2000 national campaign.

As he embarks on his fundraising blitz, DeSantis has begun building a team with national experience. He has tapped veteran Republican strategist Phil Cox to help oversee his 2022 campaign. Cox, who has developed deep ties to the donor class through his past leadership of the Republican Governors Association, accompanied the governor to last week’s retreats.

But DeSantis’ most potent fundraising weapon may be his home state, which has long been home to some of the GOP’s biggest bankrollers. The governor has tapped into upscale areas like Miami Beach, where during a multistop March swing he appeared at a fundraising lunch at the La Gorce Country Club that was hosted by real estate developer Jimmy Tate. Others present included investor Jimmy Resnick.

Florida’s list of major Republican Party donors is getting longer. While the state has long attracted the wealthy through its promise of low taxes and warm weather, the pandemic has supercharged the migration. Financial leaders say they’ve been drawn to DeSantis’ reluctance to embrace the stringent mitigation policies implemented by blue-state governors that have taken a toll on businesses.

The roster includes venture capitalist David Blumberg, who in November moved to the Miami Beach area from San Francisco. Blumberg, who contributed more than $100,000 to Trump’s reelection effort, has met with DeSantis around a half-dozen times since arriving to the state.

“I have admired Gov. DeSantis from afar,” Blumberg said. “Since I’ve moved to Florida with my family, I’ve gotten to know him reasonably well and have a very good impression of what I’ve seen.”

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The GOP-Big Business Divorce Goes Deeper Than You Think




The GOP-Big Business Divorce Goes Deeper Than You Think

Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, a legendary business professor and associate dean at the Yale School of Management, has watched this split grow in recent years, and has heard it from CEOs he knows and works with. What the GOP cares about and what major businesses care about is, increasingly incompatible, he says.

“The political desire to use wedge issues to divide — which used to be fringe in the GOP — has become mainstream,” Sonnenfeld says. “That is 100 percent at variance with what the business community wants. And that is a million times more important to them than how many dollars of taxes are paid here or there.”

Over the weekend, Sonnenfeld hastily organized a Zoom conference with roughly 100 major corporate executives to talk through the voter restrictions being considered by state legislatures throughout the country, and about the way top Republicans like McConnell and Ted Cruz are responding with attacks on businesses that speak up in opposition.

Most of the CEOs on the call were Republicans; Sonnenfeld himself has been an informal adviser to both Republican and Democratic presidents, but he has a longstanding relationship with McConnell, and spoke at the senator’s wedding to Elaine Chao. The CEOs “ranged from amused to outraged” in their reaction to the GOP attacks on businesses, says Sonnenfeld. “Their comments ranged from talk about ‘taxation without representation’ to the paradox of ‘cancel culture’: It’s OK if they speak out, but only as long as they stay on script?”

As the GOP tries to position itself as the home of “working-class values,” capturing loyalty with a steady campaign against the perceived excesses of progressive culture, it’s running afoul of a business community that can’t simply silo off “culture war” topics. In the eyes of major corporations, issues like voting rights, immigration and transgender-inclusive restrooms have economic impact, too. The millions of people alienated by those fights aren’t just their future customers, many of whom expect to support brands they believe in, they’re the companies’ employees.

“The bad news for Republicans is that they seem to have a 1920s view of who big business’s workforce is,” says Sonnenfeld. “That workforce is, at a minimum, highly diverse — and they get along. Trying to stir that up is misguided.”

The new Republican penchant for mocking corporations for being too socially aware — for instance, Sen. Ted Cruz’s Twitter threat to use the power of the state to harm Major League Baseball’s business, signing the message off with “go woke, go broke” — fundamentally misunderstands what matters to business in the 21st century, says Sonnenfeld. “Basically, business leaders believe that it’s in the interest of society to have social harmony… Divisiveness in society is not in their interest, short term or long term.”

If the marriage between the Republican Party and the business community is on the rocks, what does that mean for politics? What do we misunderstand about what really matters to CEOs? And why aren’t business executives more afraid of boycott threats from the right?

For answers to all of that and more, POLITICO Magazine spoke with Sonnenfeld this week. A condensed transcript of that conversation follows, edited for length and clarity.

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Pence has pacemaker implanted – POLITICO




Pence has pacemaker implanted - POLITICO

Former Vice President Mike Pence had a pacemaker implanted on Wednesday, his office announced in a release Thursday.

After being named to Donald Trump’s ticket in 2016, Pence disclosed that he had been diagnosed with an asymptomatic left bundle branch block, he said. In the past two weeks, Pence’s office said he had begun to have symptoms related to a “slow heart rate.”

Pence then had the pacemaker inserted in a successful “routine surgery” at Inova Fairfax Medical Campus in Falls Church, Va., his office said in the statement. Pence is “expected to fully recover and return to normal activity in the coming days,” the statement said.

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