November 2022

Buyers Beware: Retailers Are Gifting Election Deniers Campaign Cash

Accountable.US is spotlighting bad actors that are helping to undermine our democracy amid a full-scale assault on our fundamental rights. This newsletter series is part of Accountable.US’ American Democracy Scorecard project that graded all Fortune 100 companies on their behavior involving critical democracy issues – and found two-thirds are failing to do their part.

As the holiday shopping season kicks into gear this Black Friday, shoppers will flock to major retailers for steals and deals. And this year, consumers will know which corporations are on democracy’s naughty list thanks to Accountable.US’ American Democracy Scorecard.

Among the Fortune 100 companies we scored, retailers ranked among the worst offenders when it comes to gifting election deniers and anti-democracy lawmakers with big donations. Overall, the average score was a failing grade of 57 out of 100 – with 80% having donated to federal lawmakers who opposed federal voting rights legislation.

That’s because, just like their sales, corporations' commitment to democracy appears to be seasonal. Following the events of January 6th, Amazon announced it was suspending contributions “to any member of congress who voted to override the results of the U.S. presidential election.” Yet, less than two years later, the retail giant quietly resumed spending to nine members who objected to certifying the 2020 election. Amazon’s excuse? The violent coup attempt at the U.S. Capitol was so last year.

Meanwhile, Walmart CEO Doug McMillon called the notion of a fraudulent 2020 election “fiction.” Yet, his company still donated at least $95,000 to candidates who voted against certifying the 2020 presidential election results.

Poll after poll has shown consumers overwhelmingly support companies that stand up for democracy. The good news is we get to vote with our wallets this holiday season – with better access to information on which retailers think it’s better to be in the good graces of extreme politicians than have a healthy democracy.

By The Numbers

  • During the 2022 election cycle, Fortune 100 companies offering Black Friday deals have contributed:

    • $5,573,100 to members of Congress who opposed federal voting rights legislation.

    • $1,087,000 to the members of Congress who objected to certifying the results of the 2020 presidential election.

  • Key staff members of Black Friday businesses have contributed $650,000 to anti-democracy federal legislators, with over $17,000 from the pockets of the CEOs. Those executives include:

    • Publix CEO Randall T. Jones

    • Charter Communications CEO Thomas Rutledge

    • and AT&T CEO John Stankey

CEO Spotlight: John Stankey, AT&T

So it’s no surprise that AT&T ranks as the lowest-scoring company on our American Democracy Scorecard under Stankey's leadership. During the 2022 cycle alone, AT&T and key staff gave over $1.7 million to federal and state anti-democracy legislators who pushed severe voting restrictions targeting voters of color.

However, their contributions are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to their anti-democratic behavior. Just last year it was revealed by Reuters that AT&T played a role in creating and funding the OAN Network. This far-right network has popularized conspiracy theories about the 2020 election.

Stankey was right when he said, “freedom, democracy, and rule of law are America's bedrock and must never be usurped.” Yet, the record shows that he has used his power and privilege as CEO to undermine those very same ideals.

In The News

Roll Call | Amazon, other PACs resume donations to electoral objectors

The Independent | These companies pledged to withhold donations from election deniers. Then they quietly restarted them

Houston Chronicle | Tomlinson: Exxon Mobil, AT&T, Valero finance candidates who tried to overturn 2020 election

Capital & Main | AT&T Is Top Donor to Lawmakers Who Voted to Overturn the 2020 Election

Dallas Morning News | AT&T shareholders vote against political activity accountability report

Take Action

The American Democracy Scorecard website provides a wealth of information about what America’s companies are doing to uphold or undermine democracy, as well as tools for sharing this information and making your voice heard.

Tell AT&T’s CEO, John Stankey, and other corporate leaders what you think about their commitment to democracy.


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