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AT&T quietly broke its promise of not donating to Republican ‘sedition caucus’

AT&T's PAC has donated thousands to the so-called sedition caucus.

 

Claire Goforth

Tech

Posted on May 18, 2022   Updated on May 23, 2022, 9:35 am CDT

A new report reveals that AT&T quietly broke its promise to stop donating to candidates who objected to certifying the 2020 presidential election.

The Daily Dot received an advance copy of the report compiled by the nonpartisan watchdog Accountable.US. The report is being released in conjunction with Thursday’s AT&T shareholders’ meeting at which they will vote on a resolution that would require the company to annually disclose its political giving and analyze whether its donations violate its stated values.

Accountable.US’s report also details the telecommunications giant’s donations to Texas Republicans who recently voted to restrict voting access. It says that these donations contradict Chief Executive Officer John Stankey’s April 2021 statement that “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.”

AT&T did not respond to an email sent Wednesday afternoon.

Like many corporations, AT&T maintains federal and state political action committees (PACs) through which it funnels millions of dollars to candidates and interest groups.

The company was part of the wave of corporations and trade groups that pledged to alter their political giving in the wake of the Capitol riot. These companies promised not to donate to the so-called “sedition caucus,” referring to the 147 Republicans who voted against certifying the 2020 presidential election.

Federal Election Commission (FEC) records show that AT&T resumed giving to some of those same representatives a year later.

According to FEC records, the AT&T Federal Employee PAC resumed donating to these representatives in January. Since then, it has donated a cumulative $100,000 in amounts ranging from $1,000 to $6,000 apiece to dozens of representatives who voted against certifying the 2020 election.

The representatives who received funds hail from all over the country. They include Sen. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), Reps. Greg Steube (R-Fla.), Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), Pete Sessions (R-Texas), Morgan Griffith (R-Va.), Debbie Lesko (R-Ariz.), and many others.

The PAC has donated $2 million this election cycle, including to members and groups from both parties.

Accountable.US holds that AT&T has broken its public promise not to donate to the so-called sedition or treason caucus. AT&T has not made any public acknowledgment that it’s resumed donating to politicians who voted against certifying the 2020 presidential election.

“For far too long, AT&T has been playing both sides, telling its customers and shareholders they embrace voting rights while its affiliated PACs dump thousands into the campaigns of those objecting to our election results and to lawmakers denying the freedom to vote,” Accountable.US president Kyle Herrig told the Daily Dot in an emailed statement.

“In its shareholder’s meeting, will AT&T continue risking its reputation by misleading the public about what the company truly values, or will it finally be honest with its customers, shareholders, and employees that protecting its political influence comes before all else?”

Accountable.US’s report also details AT&T’s donations to Texas lawmakers who voted to restrict voting rights access, and to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R), who signed the legislation.

According to the report, the company’s state PAC has given nearly $250,000 to the Republicans responsible for passing laws that further constrained voting by mail, protected partisan poll watchers, and rolled back local initiatives intended to expand voters’ access.

The Texas Tribune reports that some of the local initiatives affected are ones that overwhelmingly helped people of color.

AT&T has said that its political activities are intended to “support policies that sustain and grow our business and create stockholder value.”

The shareholder proposal that will be voted on tomorrow claims that AT&T’s donations actually contradict its values.

“AT&T’s politically focused expenditures appear to be misaligned with its public statements on Company values, views, and operational practices,” it states.

The proposal points to the company’s claim to support gender equality, which it says is disingenuous in light of the estimated $16.4 million it donated to politicians and political organizations that work to restrict reproductive freedom. It also claims that AT&T’s membership in the United States Chamber of Congress contradicts its stated commitment to reducing the nation’s carbon footprint, as that organization lobbies against climate regulations and campaigns to slow the transition to a “low carbon energy mix.”

Thus, they’re asking AT&T to be more public about its expenditures and publish an annual report analyzing how its political spending complies with its stated values.

“Shareholders request that AT&T publish a report, at reasonable expense, analyzing the congruence of the company’s political and electioneering expenditures during the preceding year against publicly stated company values and policies, listing and explaining any instances of incongruent expenditures, and stating whether the company has made, or plans to make, changes in contributions or communications to candidates as a result of identified incongruencies,” the proposal states.

AT&T’s board unanimously recommends shareholders vote against the proposal.

“We believe our core business objectives and political giving align with our values,” the board said in a statement submitted to the Securities Exchange Commission. “When AT&T decides to weigh in on specific legislation, we take positions that are consistent with the company’s already-stated values and business priorities.”

It claims that two-thirds of the recipients of its donations support the Dream Act, the Equality Act, and the Paris climate change accords.

That one-third of the recipients of donations are candidates and groups that don’t support such policies is simply too much for some.

“A healthy democracy will always be what’s best for business, and it’s time that AT&T proves whose side it’s on,” Accountable.US president Herrig said in a statement.


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*First Published: May 18, 2022, 3:53 pm CDT