Dozens of business leaders held an hour-long brainstorming session over the weekend to discuss ways to fight controversial voting restrictions proposed in states around the country.
The Zoom meeting included Target (TGT) CEO Brian Cornell, American Airlines (AAL) CEO Doug Parker, Merck (MRK) boss Ken Frazier, Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank and James Murdoch, a person familiar with the matter told CNN Business.
Business leaders “strongly indicated” they will reevaluate campaign donations to candidates who back voter restrictions, and they will reconsider investments in states that enact such legislation, according to a press release from organizers of the event.
The virtual meeting with CEOs from a cross-section of industries underscores the growing tensions between the business community and Republicans in the wake of former President Donald Trump’s efforts to sow doubts about the legitimacy of the 2020 election.
“It was a defiant stand against those politicians trying to silence them,” Yale professor Jeffrey Sonnenfeld told CNN Business.
Sonnenfeld helped organize the event, along with the Coalition for Inclusive Capitalism and the Leadership Now Project.
Among the business leaders participating in the meeting were former American Express (AXP) CEO Ken Chenault, Levi Strauss (LEVI) CEO Charles Bergh, Delta Air Lines (DAL) chief legal officer Peter Carter, LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, former UPS (UPS) senior executive Teri McClure, Snap-On (SNA) CEO Nicholas Pinchuk, and Eric Hansotia, the CEO of Georgia-based tractor maker AGCO (AGCO), the person familiar with the matter told CNN Business.
The debate by business leaders over next steps demonstrates the level of concern about voting rights after Georgia passed a law that its backers say is aimed at safeguarding elections. Critics of the Georgia legislation argue it is designed to suppress Black voters after the state narrowly voted in favor of President Joe Biden last November and elected two Democrats to the US Senate.
In an interview last week with CNN Business, Dick Parsons, the former CEO of Time Warner and CBS, slammed the Georgia legislation as “bone-headed” and a “ruse” that pretends to be aimed at election security. Major League Baseball moved the All-Star game out of Atlanta because of concerns about the law.
The controversy goes beyond Georgia, however, because lawmakers in 47 states have introduced bills that would make it harder to vote, according to a tally by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University.
“It is our patriotic duty to protect the most vital rights of all Americans,” Lynn Forester de Rothschild, founder and chair of the Coalition for Inclusive Capitalism, said in the statement. “This is an essential act of inclusive capitalism because without a thriving democracy we cannot have a thriving and secure capitalism.”
Trump has called for a boycott of MLB, Delta (DAL), Coca-Cola (KO), JPMorgan Chase (JPM), Merck (MRK), UPS (UPS) and other companies after business leaders opposed Georgia’s controversial voting law. McConnell warned of “corporations will invite serious consequences” for speaking out on voting legislation.
Sonnenfeld, the Yale professor, said business leaders are “outraged” by the threats and “want to show they are entitled to their political voices.”
CNN’s Alison Kosik contributed to this report.