Among the host of current events ranging from terrifying to troubling there are two I want to focus on: the 100thanniversary of the introduction Equal Rights Amendment on December 13th and the fleeing of Kate Cox, the Texas mother denied permission for a life-saving abortion from her Texas home to another state to receive essential medical care.
Why, after a century, are women still excluded from the protections of the U.S. Constitution? Why, in 2023, are the lives and health of women in 17 states unable threatened by the withdrawal or severe limitations on reproductive health care?
There are many reasons why women are treated as second-class citizens in the US. Some historic dating back centuries. But what should concern us all today is why in the world this denial of rights and freedom on account to gender persists in 2023. Especially when women account for an estimated 85% of consumer spending.
After all, an overwhelming majority of Americans (75% plus –both men and women–in the favor equal rights for women and access to reproductive healthcare without government interference.
But as is much the case in other realms of our national life, the majority view doesn’t matter. The extreme right has captured control of many state legislatures, the U.S. House of Representatives, and the U.S. Supreme Court.
Long-time Agitator readers know that here we lay a good deal of the blame for the putrid state of our politics and threats to our democracy on the cynical, selfish, and hypocritical behavior of the corporate donors who fund the campaigns of the extremist, anti-women, anti-rights, anti-democracy politicians. (See here, here, and here.)
And so it is with the case of Kate Cox, and her need to flee her home in Texas with its draconian anti-abortion law to obtain life-saving medical help in another state. A law passed by extremist legislators whose campaigns were funded by seemingly benign corporations like AT&T.
Fortunately, the exposure of AT&T’s contributions and hypocrisy when it comes to funding right-wing legislators has not gone unnoticed. Especially not by a large number of its own shareholders. Their call for a report on how the company’s political practices varied with its publicly stated values received nearly 45% of shareholder votes, far more than any other shareholder resolution.
On December 7th, AT&T quietly published an extraordinary document. For the first time ever, the company released a “political congruency report.” The report, which covers the year 2022, looks at the “[s]tate and federal elected officials to whom AT&T or its Employee PACs have made political contributions” and compares the “voting record” of these officials “to the Company’s stance.”
Unfortunately, the report fails to address how the politicians that AT&T supports financially align with AT&T’s stated position on voting rights, LGBTQ equality, or women’s empowerment. The report attempts to give the public the impression that these issues are priorities for the company but provides no details on how the company is dealing with the issues it claims to champion.
For example, AT&T claims to champion women’s equality. In AT&T’s 2020 Diversity, Equality and Inclusion Report, CEO John Stankey said one of the company’s “core values” was “gender equity and the empowerment of women.” But, from 2018 to 2021, AT&T donated $301,000 to the sponsors of Texas’ draconian abortion ban. The very legislation that drove Kate Cox to flee the state to save her own life.
After the bill was signed into law, AT&T donated $50,000 directly from its corporate treasury to the Texas Senate Republican Caucus (all 18 Texas Senate Republicans voted in favor of the ban) and $30,000 to House Speaker Dade Phelan (R), who marshaled Texas’ abortion ban through the House.
This is but one tiny example of the human misery and threats to personal freedom and democracy corporate giving in support of extremist legislators and their reactionary agenda is producing.
And it will get worse as the US enters the 2024 multi-billion $ election campaign season in full force. An election that could well determine not only the future of women’s equality and health is concerned, but the future of many personal freedoms and democracy itself.
Most corporations are notoriously squeamish when it comes to negative exposure. And it’s hard to imagine a more negative image for an American corporation than being labelled for as denying women their rights and supporting the rise of authoritarianism and the death of democracy.
Here at the Agitator, we’ll step up our efforts to focus on the shadowy dimensions of some of America’s shiny brands.