“By ignoring the Chamber’s opposition to a bill that protects an essential right in our democracy, these executives are violating their commitment and siding against the millions of Americans — including many of their own employees — fighting racist voter suppression tactics,” Kyle Herrig, president of Accountable.US, told CNN Business.
‘Serious risk’ to brand reputations
The group warned that supporting the Chamber of Commerce “poses a serious risk to Target’s reputation.”
A separate letter sent to Google CEO Sundar Pichai argued “silence on this matter is tantamount to an endorsement of the Chamber’s decision and shows where Google stands on protecting an individual’s right to vote.”
Accountable.US sent letters to another eight companies whose executives sit on the Chamber of Commerce’s board or have been featured on the Chamber’s foundation website.
“If they truly believe in protecting one of our most fundamental constitutional rights, they have no choice but to cut ties with the Chamber,” Herrig said.
In a statement to CNN Business, a spokesperson for the Chamber of Commerce called the campaign by Accountable.US a “misrepresentation” of what the organization has said. The spokesperson emphasized that the Chamber of Commerce is deeply troubled by efforts to change election law on a partisan basis because that can erode confidence in election outcomes.
“Our elected leaders, Democrat and Republican need to find common grown when making changes to election laws. We need consensus not division on important issues,” the Chamber of Commerce said.
Most of the companies did not respond to requests for comment. Citi and Google declined to comment.
Chamber of Commerce says bill would ‘silence’ some Americans
Companies frequently take different positions than that of trade associations they belong to.
“We work with many coalitions, trade groups, and industry associations on a broad range of topics,” Ford said in a statement. “When it comes to voting rights, Ford’s position is clear: We believe that equitable access to voting rights for all people is the bedrock of a democratic society.”
Last week, the Chamber of Commerce sent a “key vote alert” to senators to detailing why it “strongly opposes” the For the People Act and warning that it could include votes related to the bill in its annual scorecard.
The Chamber of Commerce argued changes to election law should be done on a bipartisan basis and said the Democrat bill would push “certain voices, representing large segments of the electorate and US economy, out of the political process altogether.”
The Chamber took particular issue with new restrictions on communications by associations. The bill “would regulate and ultimately silence Americans who choose to petition their government or participate in the political process through the collective action of an association or corporation,” the Chamber of Commerce’s key vote letter said.
Boycott threats — from both sides
CEOs face a difficult balancing act in standing up for democracy without alienating customers or sparking a backlash from politicians and regulators.
Hundreds of companies signed onto last week’s full-page ad in the NY Times pledging to oppose “any discriminatory legislation or measures that restrict or prevent any eligible voter from having an equal and fair opportunity to cast a ballot.”
At the same time, companies that have taken a more cautious approach towards speaking out about voting rights are under pressure.
“This is an important moment in history,” Hoffman told CNN Business in an email. “It may be a longer battle than it ought to be, but I do know what side of the fight, as a patriotic American citizen — and as a businessperson — that I want to be on.”