Corporate pressures suggest new dynamics on voting rights: The Note

Companies in states considering changes can expect a push to take firmer stands.

April 01, 2021, 6:00 AM

The TAKE with Rick Klein

It might look like it all came a week late. But it might be that the shifting corporate dynamics around voting rights are happening at the moment they will matter most.

Delta Air Lines and the Coca-Cola Co., two Atlanta-based behemoths that issued vague statements supporting voting rights but did not publicly oppose Georgia's new voting law before it passed, came out Wednesday with top executives blasting the law signed by the state's Republican governor late last week.

"This legislation is unacceptable. It is a step backwards," Coca-Cola's CEO said.

PHOTO: A man walks near the entrance for Coca-Cola headquarters Friday, Feb. 5, 2021, in Atlanta.
A man walks near the entrance for Coca-Cola headquarters Friday, Feb. 5, 2021, in Atlanta.
John Bazemore/AP, FILE

His counterpart at Delta similarly called the law "not acceptable," telling ABC's "GMA3": "Our Black communities' voices need to be heard on this topic."

The revised corporate statements came on the same day that a coalition of Black business leaders, the Black Economic Alliance, ran an open-letter ad in The New York Times calling on corporate America to "support our nation's fundamental democratic principles and marshal its collective influence."

It's too late for Georgia businesses to help rewrite their state's voting laws this year. But the Democratic Party of Georgia welcomed the statements, inviting the companies to join lobbying efforts for federal legislation pending on Capitol Hill.

Other states with enormous, household-name companies -- Texas, Florida, Arizona -- are still debating GOP proposals restricting voters' access in their current legislative sessions. Companies based in those states and elsewhere can expect to hear pressure to take firmer stands going forward.

The RUNDOWN with Averi Harper

With the stroke of a pen, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo legalized recreational marijuana in the Empire State Wednesday.

It was an effort he and Democratic state lawmakers worked toward for years but until now had fallen short.

The legislation now makes it legal for New Yorkers to possess up to three ounces of marijuana and aims to address the fact that Black and Latino New Yorkers are disproportionately charged and convicted of crimes related to marijuana possession by expunging the criminal records of those previously convicted. Citing similar data, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam is accelerating the process of legalization of marijuana in his state.

PHOTO: A plant is seen in a grow room at a cannabis company headquarters in Oakland, Calif., Jan. 23, 2020.
A plant is seen in a grow room at a cannabis company headquarters in Oakland, Calif., Jan. 23, 2020.
MediaNews Group via Getty Images, FILE

In New York, legalization stands to rake in millions of dollars in tax revenue, create jobs and direct money toward underserved communities.

Under normal circumstances, a very proud Cuomo would have celebrated this policy win in a very public way. Instead, he simply issued a statement marking the historic moment as crisis surrounds him on numerous fronts.

Probes into his administration's reporting of COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes continue, allegations of sexual misconduct from current and former female staffers, and reports his family got special access to COVID-19 tests in the early days of the pandemic have left the normally boisterous governor quiet. The silence is deafening.

The TIP with Kendall Karson

In Iowa's 2nd Congressional District, the last 2020 contest finally came to an end on Wednesday when Democrat Rita Hart dropped her challenge to the election results. Hart withdrew her petition in the House seeking to overturn the outcome amid increasing pressure from both Republicans railing against a Democratic attempt to "steal" a seat from one of their own and some Democrats signaling they were not on board with reversing an election result.

"The race is over," House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said alongside Republican Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks in Iowa, hours before Hart withdrew her challenge.

PHOTO: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy speaks during a press conference on Capitol Hill, March 18, 2021, in Washington.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy speaks during a press conference on Capitol Hill, March 18, 2021, in Washington.
Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images, FILE

But other races are only just beginning. On Thursday, Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., chair of the Senate GOP's campaign arm, is in the Hawkeye State for an event with Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst and the state party, where looming questions remain over whether longtime Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley will run for re-election in 2022. Scott told the Des Moines Register he would "be surprised if he doesn't."

Meanwhile, both Iowa Democrats and Republicans are preparing for a tough fight to hold onto their first-in-the-nation status in 2024, with Iowa Republican Party Chair Jeff Kaufmann knocking Nevada's most influential Democrat amid efforts by national and state Democrats to bump Iowa from its prime spot in favor of more diverse states like Nevada and South Carolina.

"Attacking the Iowa Caucuses and other First-in-the-Nation states is nothing new for people like Harry (Reid) and coastal elites who think they know better than everybody else. I continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with my First In The Nation states counterparts and will do everything in my power to protect the Iowa Caucuses," he said in a statement.

ONE MORE THING

Rep. Matt Gaetz sits at the center of a Justice Department investigation into potential violations of sex trafficking laws that involves an alleged sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl, multiple sources confirmed to ABC News. Reports of the investigation into Gaetz have brought fresh attention and scrutiny to the controversial young congressman. The federal investigation is also scrutinizing the Republican's conduct not only in Florida but in other states too, three sources familiar with the investigation told ABC News.

THE PLAYLIST

ABC News' "Start Here" podcast. Thursday morning's episode features ABC News Chief Medical correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton, who tells us about findings from Pfizer on how its vaccine works for adolescents. ABC News Senior Washington reporter Devin Dwyer recaps Supreme Court arguments over NCAA amateurism. And ABC News' Victoria Moll-Ramirez explains why drug trafficking allegations against the Honduran president could complicate the Biden administration's immigration efforts. http://apple.co/2HPocUL

ABC News' "Powerhouse Politics" podcast. After reaching a "trigger point" with the White House over Asian American and Pacific Islander representation in the president's Cabinet, Illinois Democratic Sen. Tammy Duckworth is "very pleased" with the response to her concerns, she told ABC News Chief Washington Correspondent Jonathan Karl and Political Director Rick Klein. https://bit.ly/3oMKdUP

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY

  • Vice President Kamala Harris meets virtually with stakeholders to discuss COVID-19 public education efforts at 9:15 a.m.
  • President Joe Biden and the vice president receive the president’s daily brief at 10:15 a.m. They have lunch together at 12:15 p.m. The president holds a Cabinet meeting at 1:15 p.m.
  • White House press secretary Jen Psaki holds briefing at noon.
  • The House Committee on Administration holds a hearing on elections and ballot access at noon.
  • Iowa Republican Party Chairman Jeff Kaufmann holds a conversation with Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., and Rep. Ashley Hinson, R-Iowa, at a GOP fundraiser in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, at 5:30 p.m. CT.
  • Download the ABC News app and select "The Note" as an item of interest to receive the day's sharpest political analysis.

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