Donors Fund Texas Lawmakers Behind ‘Voter Suppression’ Bills
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As controversial ballot bills become law in states across the country, some of the country’s biggest companies have come out to condemn what they say amounts to voter suppression.
But here in Texas, three of the state’s largest corporate donors – Exelon Corp., Oncor and Ryan LLC – have donated nearly half a million dollars to more than a dozen Republican senators who have sponsored. Senate Bill 7, according to a new watchdog report. Responsible.US.
In the report, the Washington-based advocacy group noted that all three donors “have professed a commitment to equality and diversity.”
Meanwhile, the same trio “gave $ 493,000 to the Texas state senators who sponsored SB 7, many of whom had troubling histories of racism, discrimination, or voter suppression.”
The report, which also examined similar donor relationships in Arizona and Florida, focused on $ 800,500 in donations from companies in all three states.
“These companies tout their commitments to diversity and racial equity, then they turn around and give lawmakers thousands of dollars to take away the franchise from black and brown Americans,” said Kyle Herrig, president. from Accountable.US, in a press release.
“As these states actively try to suppress voter turnout, businesses need to live up to their values and disown racist attacks on our democracy,” Herrig added.
In Texas, SB 7 is one of several electoral integrity bills that have been passed by the state legislature. Civil rights groups, voter organizations, activists and Democrats in Texas have categorically condemned the bills as voter suppression.
If passed, SB 7 would restrict how and when voters can vote, prevent drive-thru voting, and prohibit election administrators from distributing postal ballot requests, among other provisions.
The Senate has already passed the bill, and a similar State House bill, HB 6, was recently approved for a floor vote.
Vote watchers say the bills would disproportionately harm the rights of voters of color and people with disabilities, among others.
Exelon did not respond to a request for comment.
“We believe in active participation in the political process,” Oncor said in an email statement.
“It is in the best interests of our business, our shareholders and the communities and families we serve,” added Oncor. “Political contributions are not based on party lines or individual issues. We will stand up for the needs of our business, our industry and our customers.”
Contacted by the Observer, Brint Ryan, president and CEO of Ryan LLC, said the report was “dishonest garbage.”
“To assume that I support every proposal made by every elected official we support is naive,” he said via email. “To look at contributions made in the past and try to project them onto current legislative proposals is ethical and utterly misleading bankruptcy. This is especially true when the sole purpose is to disparage companies for exercising their rights to participate in the process. political process. ”
Ryan said he doesn’t agree with all of the proposed electoral reforms, but he also doesn’t see the bills as genuine attempts to suppress votes.
“In the 21st century, we should be able to achieve both very high electoral integrity and the broadest and most practical means of voting possible,” he added. “As long as the process is secure, people should be able to vote Chick-fil-A for anything that matters to me.”
But Dell and American Airlines condemned SB 7 and HB 6, while AT&T, the second-largest corporate donor in Texas, indirectly criticized attempts to restrict the vote.
Earlier this month, voting rights groups called on companies to take a stand against voting bills in Texas, as Houston Public Media reported. Groups such as MOVE Texas and Black Voters Matter have said companies should pressure Republican lawmakers to drop the bills.
According to the Accountable.US report, the “controversial recipients” are state saviors Charles Brandon Creighton and Bob Hall.
Together, Exelon and Ryan LLC donated $ 93,500 to Creighton, a Republican from Conroe. Hall, a self-proclaimed “constitutional conservative” from Rockwall, received at least $ 7,500 from Ryan LLC.
Accountable.US chose Creighton because he had once supported a bill that would have prevented the removal of Confederate monuments.
Hall, on the other hand, caught the watchdog’s attention because he once defended controversial Tea Party activist Ray Myers, a self-proclaimed white nationalist from Kaufman County.
Meanwhile, Exelon and Ryan LLC gave $ 35,000 to Republican State Senator Paul Bettencourt, who spearheaded seven electoral integrity bills during this legislative session.
“These bills are designed to strengthen the integrity of the voters list in Texas,” Bettencourt said in a press release. “The public needs to be able to be sure that local election officials are doing their job properly … and that the electoral code is being observed in all cases.”
Exelon, Oncor and Ryan LLC have disbursed over $ 45,750 to State Senator Lois Kolkhorst, while Exelon and Oncor have given a combined total of over $ 50,000 to State Senator Brian Birdwell.
After former President Donald Trump’s defeat to Democrat Joe Biden last November, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said “electoral integrity” was a matter of urgency in this legislative session.
Many Texas Republicans echoed Trump’s claims that the election was rigged, but no evidence of widespread electoral fraud has ever been produced.
At a press conference in March, Abbott said his goal was “to ensure that every eligible voter has the right to vote and that only eligible ballots are counted.”
“In the 2020 election, we witnessed actions across our state that could endanger the integrity of our elections and allow electoral fraud, which is why I made electoral integrity a point urgently this session, ”added the governor.
But Emily Ebb, a lawyer for the Texas Civil Rights Project, recently told the Observer that the bills would deprive many voters of their ability to vote safely.
“People who have been in power for a long time are afraid that they cannot compete with ideas, so they try to compete with the turnout,” Ebb said.
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