Washington, D.C. — As the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has escalated its rhetoric and attacks on efforts to protect voting rights under the guise of ‘free speech,’ government watchdog Accountable.US released a new report today detailing the U.S. Chamber’s troubling history of propping up voter suppression efforts intended to disenfranchise people of color. It comes amid a wave of racially charged voter suppression bills in states, including in Georgia, Florida and Texas. Several Chamber member companies recently signed a letter stating they’re committed to “defend[ing] the right to vote” and yet remain members as the Chamber leadership leads the charge against HR.1, the For the People Act. These companies want to have their cake and eat it, too.
“For years, the U.S. Chamber has poured millions of dollars into the pockets of the lawmakers and groups on the frontlines of voter suppression and gerrymandering efforts,” said Kyle Herrig, president of Accountable.US. “Companies that continue to remain Chamber members have a choice: They can continue hiding behind the Chamber to support these racist voting rights attacks, or they can honor the public commitments they made in support of democracy and sever ties once and for all.”
The Chamber’s efforts to aid and abet voter suppression across the country started long before its opposition to H.R.1, the For the People Act — a House-passed bill that would protect an individual’s right to vote. In addition to spending at least $96,000 to directly back prominent opponents of voting rights reform, it poured millions into the Republican State Leadership Committee (RLSC), a group that launched a so-called “voter integrity” commission that has been panned as a coordinated voter suppression effort and has called for a variety of measures that will disproportionately harm voters of color.
Late last month, Accountable.US sent letters urging companies and organizations that are members of the U.S. Chamber that have pledged to disavow any attacks on voting rights, including Google, Microsoft, Target, Facebook, Uber, and more. See the group’s release on its efforts and CNN’s coverage here.
- The director of the U.S. Chamber Of Commerce Litigation Center, Bart Rein, was previously the lead attorney in the Supreme Court case Shelby V. Holder, which weakened the Voting Rights Act and helped usher in the voter suppression efforts emerging in 2021.
- The Chamber “hatched” and funded a conservative-led redistricting project known as REDMAP, which targeted 107 state legislative races in 16 states and was condemned by voting rights advocates as having “cracked, stacked, packed and bleached Black voters” to reduce their political representation.
- The Chamber has spent at least $96,000 to directly back prominent opponents of voting rights reform, including: Rep. Bob Goodlatte, House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, Sen. Ted Cruz, and Rep. Dan Crenshaw.
- The group led opposition to the first version of the For the People Act introduced in 2019 and lobbied on the bill in eight consecutive quarters since mid-2019—a period during which the Chamber spent over $129 million to influence federal policymakers.
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