Opinion: If Salesforce wants to defend voting rights, it should cut ties with U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Kyle Herrig June 6, 2021 Comments (SFChronicle.com)

Salesforce's affiliation with the U.S. Chamber of commerce has been called into question.
Salesforce’s affiliation with the U.S. Chamber of commerce has been called into question.Jana Asenbrennerova/Special to The Chronicle 2019

In the face of a wave of racist, anti-voter legislation introduced by state governments across the country, hundreds of leading American companies, including Salesforce, recently signed a letter stating they were committed to “defend(ing) the right to vote and to oppos(ing) any discriminatory legislation or measures that restrict or prevent any eligible voter from having an equal and fair opportunity to cast a ballot.”

This outpouring of principled corporate leadership is both wanted and needed. But there’s a problem:

Dozens of these companies, Salesforce among them, remain affiliated with one of the most prominent and influential organizations working against a healthy democracy: the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The U.S. chamber calls itself the “world’s largest business federation.” And thanks to the financial support it receives from major corporations like Salesforce, it has spent a staggering $1.6 billion lobbying the federal government since 1998, giving over $116 million to political candidates — mostly Republicans. Millions of these dollars have poured into the pockets of the lawmakers and groups leading the fight to advance voter suppression and gerrymandering efforts.

As far back as 2010, the U.S. chamber “hatched” and funded a conservative-led redistricting project known as Redmap, which was condemned by a leading civil rights activist as having “cracked, stacked, packed and bleached Black voters” to reduce their political representation. Most recently, the chamber has engaged in a lobbying blitz against HR1, the For the People Act, a historic House-passed bill that would preserve an individual’s right to vote.More from Sunday Insight

The group also contributed more than $7.4 million to the Republican State Leadership Committee, which, just this year, launched a so-called “voter integrity” commission that has been widely panned as a coordinated voter suppression effort and has called for a variety of measures that would disproportionately harm voters of color.

The chamber’s unwillingness to withhold support from those who would threaten our democracy is helping to fan the flames of a legislative insurrection. Undaunted by the Capitol riots, state legislatures across the country are moving ahead with bills that enact a wide set of obstacles to the right to vote for predominantly Black and brown voters.

Just since March, Georgia and Florida passed bills that ban giving food to voters waiting in line at polling places and restrict voting methods. Arizona and Texas are expected to vote on their own bills designed to disenfranchise voters of color — all efforts that could go unchecked if HR1 and other federal voting rights reforms are unsuccessful.

In 2020, Salesforce claimed it was “addressing the importance of how access to the ballot continues to impact the Black community” by supporting a range of election policy reforms such as automatic voter registration. The company’s message could not have been clearer, declaring support for major legislation to “limit states from enacting discriminatory voting laws.”

But that message simply does not align with the company’s decision to maintain its chamber membership.

The chamber can dress up its financial support for anti-democratic politicians and its opposition to HR1 in whatever fashion it wants, but its long record betrays its true motives.

Democracy and the rights of millions of Black and brown Americans are on the line. While companies like Salesforce should be applauded for their public commitment to preserving and defending the right to vote, they also must be held accountable for living up to that promise.

That demands making a choice: either continue embracing and financing an organization that has a documented history of attacking voting rights across the country, or honor the public commitment to support the right to vote by severing all ties with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Kyle Herrig is the president of Accountable.US, a nonpartisan, progressive organization that uses investigative research to expose corruption and hold government officials and corporate special interests accountable.

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