Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has been reminded of his support of the Citizens United ruling after he warned big businesses to “stay out of politics” as they denounced a controversial new voting law in Georgia.
The Kentucky Republican said it was “simply not true” and a “big lie” to call the new voting law racist or a return to Jim Crow-era restrictions on minority communities.
The new Georgia voting law tightens restrictions on absentee ballot voting; makes it illegal for election officials to mail out absentee ballots to everyone on the voter roll; threatens a misdemeanor charge against those who hand out water and food at polling stations; and hands the state legislature greater control over the Georgia Election Board.
He issued his call for firms to “stay out of politics” as Coca-Cola and Delta Airlines criticized the policy along with other firms. Major League Baseball also announced that it would relocate the 2021 All-Star Game due to be held in Atlanta.
Issuing a statement on the voting law, McConnell said: “It’s jaw-dropping to see powerful American institutions not just permit themselves to be bullied, but join in the bullying themselves.”
A number of commentators reacted to the Republican leader’s remarks by reminding him of his support for the Citizens United ruling that permitted corporations, unions and other outside groups to spend unlimited sums on elections.
“Mitch McConnell knows corporations are not people—that’s why he’s so quick to silence them,” the End Citizens United campaign tweeted Sunday. “He only considers them ‘people’ when cashing their checks and watching their dark money ads in support of his campaign of voter suppression and gridlock.”
Lawyer Ted Boutrous similarly said that the Citizens United ruling backed by McConnell gave corporations “full-throated First Amendment rights in politics.”
“Mitch McConnell is basically saying that actual corporate political speech on important issues can and should be muzzled by the government but corporate cash contributions to him and others is speech that should be protected by the First Amendment,” he tweeted. “That is nonsensical.”
Former Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill (D) also said it was “funny” that McConnell opposed corporations being involved in politics after backing a Supreme Court ruling that allowed them to spend unlimited funds on elections.
“He desperately wants corporations to be people (see Citizens United) with First Amendment rights when it comes to campaign cash… just not for any other type of speech,” she tweeted.
Speaking at a roundtable event in 2011, McConnell said the Citizens United ruling “leveled the playing field” between newspaper owners and other corporations that wished to have a say in politics.
“All Citizens United basically did was to level the playing field for corporate America, and for union America, and say you like a media company can… independently express your views about anything in this country,” he said at the time. “Why shouldn’t everybody be free to do that?”