The recent adoption of unprecedented restrictions on abortions in states including Georgia, Louisiana, Missouri, and Alabama is a legal and political controversy that is likely to become a corporate governance controversy as well. Judd Legum at Popular Information dug through the disclosure of corporate political contributions and revealed that these corporations supported politicians who sponsored or voted in favor of these laws: ATT, Walmart, Pfizer, Eli Lilly, Coca-Cola, Aetna,
Furthermore, corporations that produce movies and television programs, many quick to speak out about moving their productions out of Georgia in response to this legislation, turn out to be supporting the legislators and governors behind it as well, including Comcast, Warner Brothers, Disney, and CBS.
The amounts in most cases are small in absolute terms but not small in terms of state elections. We expect that corporate officials will respond by saying, as Netflix did on behalf of CEO Reed Hastings, that the donations were in support of other issues.
Reed’s private support of educational causes is well known and these personal donations stem directly from that. All of these personal donations from Reed, on both sides of the aisle, were made in support of a specific piece of legislation aimed at improving the availability and quality of charter schools in Missouri. [Legum notes that this legislation was never put to a vote.]
This is yet another in the endless series of controversies that arise from corporate political donations, and yet another reminder that they can put brand and reputation at risk with consumers and shareholders.