Statement: The strongest statement Coke, Big Food could give on voting rights? Getting its money out of politics.

by Lucy Martinez Sullivan, Executive Director

A powerful national spotlight has been thrust on Corporate America’s manipulation of our political system. Whether as a result of the violent attack on the U.S capitol in January or the Republican party’s efforts to disenfranchise voters in Georgia and elsewhere, corporations are facing unprecedented and overdue scrutiny for their spending to influence our elections, prop up legislators who advocate for racist and xenophobic policies, and wielding outsized influence over our democracy.

At the center of this corporate capture of our democratic institutions—and, most notably, the recent voter suppression push at the state level—is Big Food, led by the likes of Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, McDonald’s, and Darden. In Coca-Cola’s home state of Georgia, where Democrats scored victories in the presidential and U.S. Senate races fueled by historic Black turnout, Republican legislators—many of whom were recipients of campaign cash from Coke and its proxies—passed a voter suppression bill that many are rightly calling “Jim Crow 2.0.” Since then, there has been a corporate-financed GOP onslaught of over 360 similar bills in other states.

After a period of silence and equivocation, Coca-Cola bowed to pressure from activists and groups like the New Georgia Project, and sent out its CEO to reassure the American public that the corporation didn’t support the law and claimed that the soda giant had always, albeit quietly, opposed such laws. The truth is that Coca-Cola has long contributed to public officials like Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, trade groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and political organizations like the Republican Attorneys General Association that loom large in the push to make it harder for Americans to exercise their right to vote. And to date, Coca-Cola has not committed to defund these individuals and entities, or even temporarily pause its giving to them, as it did in the wake of the Capitol riot.

At Feed the Truth, we believe it is long past time for food corporations to walk their talk on transparency and fully disclose the totality of their political giving in all the geographies they do business in. But most importantly, we call on food corporations to do as Mitch McConnell and others have suggested: stay out of politics. Corporations have no business interfering in our political system, whether that interference is in the form of lobbying, campaign contributions, or otherwise.  Corporate money-in-politics poses a threat to our democracy and to the equal treatment of every person in America, regardless of their race, color, or national origin.

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