Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) On Tuesday warned corporate CEOs that they should stop speaking out on political issues he does not support, but should continue to make campaign contributions to politicians like him.
“My warning to American business is to stay out of politics,” McConnell said at a press conference, adding: “I’m not talking about political contributions.”
Tuesday’s comments followed another threat McConnell addressed to businesses on Monday following their denunciations of a restrictive election law passed by Republicans in Georgia. The CEOs of Delta Airlines and Coca-Cola condemned the new measure, and Major League Baseball decided to move the 2021 All-Star Game from suburban Atlanta to Denver.
“From election law and environmentalism to sweeping social programs and the Second Amendment, parts of the private sector continue to behave like a woken parallel government,” McConnell said Monday. “Businesses will have grave consequences if they become a means for far-left crowds to divert our country from outside the constitutional order.”
McConnell’s call for companies to shut up lest they face political retaliation runs counter to his career-long defense of corporate political speech rights.
In the past 30 years, there has been no greater advocate for corporate political speech rights than McConnell. He has filed lawsuits and amicus briefs to defend corporate speaking rights in the Supreme Court and has delivered passionate speeches defending corporate speaking rights from the Senate.
In particular, McConnell has vigorously defended corporations and wealthy political donors against the threat of political retaliation for their political positions – exactly what he embarked upon on Monday.
This was made clearer in McConnell’s Decadelong campaign against efforts to compel nonprofit groups to disclose contributions made to independent political election campaigns like the DISCLOSE Act. This so-called “black money” that the DISCLOSE law would reveal increased dramatically after the 2010 Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision freed companies to spend unlimited sums on independent political efforts.
For McConnell, this effort to demand transparency in contributions spent on election campaigns was simply a way for his opponents – the Democrats – to intimidate corporations and wealthy donors into exercising their free speech rights.
“After spending a year and a half adopting policies that Americans don’t like, Democrats want to prevent their opponents from criticizing what they have done,” McConnell said during the filibuster DISCLOSED in 2010. “They want to prevent their detractors from speaking out.
The bill failed to clear the Republican-led obstruction with a vote in 2010. When Democrats tried to get it passed again in 2012, McConnell came back with it. an even more passionate defense of the rights to political speech rooted in a defense of the uniquely American principle of free speech against political retaliation.
McConnell opened this speech by quoting Alexis de Tocqueville on America’s only freedom of association: “In no country in the world has the principle of association been used more successfully or applied to a greater multitude of people. objects than in America.
He then embarked on a broad defense of the “proposition that Americans are free, above all, to speak out openly and freely, without fear of punishment or retaliation from government authorities”.
McConnell warned of “a serious external threat … from a political movement uncomfortable with the idea of groups it doesn’t like to speak freely, and an administration that has shown a willingness to alarming itself to use the powers of government to silence them. groups.”
“This dangerous alliance threatens the character of America,” he added. “And that’s why it’s vitally important for all Conservatives – and indeed all Americans – to stand up and unite to defend the freedom to organize around the causes we believe in and against all odds. effort that would limit our ability to do so.
McConnell pointed to criticism of billionaire political donors, including Charles and David Koch, for “their vigorous and unapologetic promotion and defense of capitalism.” Here is an acceptable political position for a corporate CEO.
“[I]It is a mistake to view the attacks we have seen on “millionaires and billionaires” as beyond our concern, “said McConnell. “Because it always starts somewhere; and the moment we stop worrying about who is being targeted is the moment we’re all at risk. “
But now that those he previously defended in principle as well have taken a stand against the Republicans’ cynical effort to play the elections in Georgia, he is happy to threaten them. Unless they shut up and give.
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