Despite recent public statements in support of voting rights, a review of the most recent PAC filings from the Dallas-based company found that AT&T has given the most to supporters of state-level voter suppression bills, at more than $811,000.
The company recently irritated its many shareholders by cutting its dividend in half, but it is still buying political influence despite promising to be more selective.
The AT&T Texas PAC reported a $100,000 contribution to Texas Governor Greg Abbott on the same day he called for a special legislative session to pass a voter suppression bill among other controversial right-wing priorities.
Accountable.US called on AT&T explain to its customers, shareholders and employees the contradictory words of its company and actions of its affiliated political committee.
“AT&T wants to play both sides, telling its customers and shareholders they embrace voting rights while its affiliated PACs dump hundreds of thousands of dollars into the campaigns of those trying to put up even more barriers for Black and brown voters of color. They aren’t fooling anyone,” said Kyle Herrig, president of government watchdog Accountable.US. “Contributions to those behind the widely panned voter suppression scheme in Texas speak much louder about the company’s true corporate values.”
“Money talks, and as states like Texas actively attempt to suppress the freedom to vote, corporations need to pick a side and fight back against racist attacks on our democracy,” added Herrig. “Unfortunately, it appears AT&T is more invested in being on the wrong side of history.”
Earlier this year, in the face of a wave of racially motivated anti-voter bills in state legislatures across the country including Texas, AT&T came out with a public statement of apparent disapproval.
In April 2021, AT&T CEO John Stankey said “We believe the right to vote is sacred and we support voting laws that make it easier for more Americans to vote in free, fair and secure elections.’”
“We are working […] to support efforts to enhance every person’s ability to vote,” Stankey said. “We believe the right to vote is sacred and we support voting laws that make it easier for more Americans to vote in free, fair and secure elections.’”
“We are working […] to support efforts to enhance every person’s ability to vote,” Stankey said.
AT&T’s public declarations of support of voting rights are further muddled by the fact AT&T Affiliated PACs have poured over $360,000 into the campaigns of the 15 members of the Texas House and Senate committees that have advanced voting restriction bills during this special session.
Leaders from many of the nation’s most prominent companies are asking lawmakers to reject voting measures deemed restrictive by many, including prominent Black business leaders, but their previous donation spending has been largely directed at the advocates of voter suppression schemes.
State legislators across the country who have pushed for controversial voting changes have reaped more than $50 million in corporate donations in recent years, according to a new report by Public Citizen, a Washington-based government watchdog group.
Some of the biggest names in corporate America are backing state lawmakers who are pushing bills to make it more difficult to vote, the Public Citizen report shows.
The anti-voter bills included in the report’s analysis would do such things as shorten early-voting periods, cancel voting on Sundays, severely constrain mail-in voting, reduce the number of drop boxes for ballots, criminalize the act of providing food and water to voters waiting in line, and even authorize the state legislature to overturn the results of a presidential election, altogether.
“Corporate leaders cannot credibly claim to love America while also giving contributions to lawmakers who are supporting thinly veiled attempts to suppress the vote, especially among people of color,” said Public Citizen Executive Vice President Lisa Gilbert. “The only acceptable action for corporations to take is to stop giving to supporters of these bills, forever.”
Among the other findings of the report:
- Three-fourths companies that paused some or all political contributions in response to the January 6 Capitol insurrection have contributed to state legislators who are supporting voter suppression legislation.
- AT&T has given the most to supporters of state-level voter suppression bills, at more than $811,000. AT&T is followed by Altria / Philip Morris ($679,000), Comcast ($440,000), UnitedHealth Group ($411,000), Walmart ($377,000), State Farm ($315,000) and Pfizer ($308,000).
- Among members of the Fortune 100, 81 companies have contributed to these lawmakers, giving a combined total of $7.7 million.
AT&T was one of several major companies that halted cash flow to Republicans who objected to the Electoral College vote, according to published reports.
“Employees on our federal PAC board convened a call today and decided to suspend contributions to members of Congress who voted to object to the certification of Electoral College votes last week,” one AT&T spokesperson told The Dallas Morning News after the deadly Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol.
Subsequent filings with the Federal Election Commission suggest that the company wasn’t telling the truth.
In February, the AT&T Federal Political Action Committee donated up to $15,000 to Republican PACs with members who voted to overturn the Electoral College results in contributions to the House Conservatives Fund, Republican Main Street Partnership PAC and the Tuesday Group PAC.
The House Conservatives Fund is chaired by Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., who voted to overturn the election results, and it also lists Texas Rep. John Carter of Round Rock on its website as a member. Carter also voted against the Electoral College results.
AT&T’s PAC also donated to the Republican Main Street Partnership PAC and the Tuesday Group PAC, both of which include members who voted to overturn the Electoral College vote.
AT&T spokesman Michael Balmoris said the PAC is still adhering to the policy it adopted in January “of suspending contributions to the reelection campaigns of members of Congress who voted to object to the certification of Electoral College votes.”
“We have been assured that none of the employee PAC’s contributions will go toward the reelection of any of those members of Congress,” Balmoris said. “Any future contributions to multi-candidate PACs will require such consistency with the policy suspending individual contributions.”
AT&T will no longer donate to groups with members who voted to overturn the election results.
The Dallas-based internet and cell service provider has come under scrutiny for its PAC donations, as Reuters reported more fundraisers for congressional candidates are lobbying corporations to open their pocketbooks again.
Some corporations appear to be holding firm. Microsoft announced it is suspending all contributions for objectors until the 2022 election cycle.