The recent Black Lives Matter protests resulting from the tragic murder of George Floyd are the largest movement in our country’s history. The shift in public opinion towards a more racially just society has been dramatic. Most Americans now agree with the ideas expressed by the Black Lives Matter movement, including that police departments should change how they operate.
Businesses have joined the cause too. Corporations are condemning racism, enacting anti-racism personnel policies, donating to racial justice advocacy groups (nearly half a billion dollars so far), promising to support black enterprises, committing to hiring more people of color (including in leadership), and more. The #StopHateforProfit campaign boasts nearly 1,000 companies that have suspended advertising on Facebook until the social media platform takes concrete steps to stop the spread of hate and disinformation. NASCAR banned the confederate flag. The SEC, the NCAA and others influenced Mississippi to change its flag, which included the confederate flag within it. With pressure from corporate sponsors, the Washington Redskins will change and the Cleveland Indians will likely change their names. Aunt Jemima, Uncle Ben and more racist brands are being retired.
These are the first steps of an anti-racist business movement. The next step is for all public companies to make all their direct and indirect political donations public and to agree not to donate to racist politicians.
This is crucial because city, county, state, and national legislation has an outsized impact on racial justice. Criminal justice, police reform, voting rights, and zoning laws are just a few of the countless examples where politicians decide the racist or anti-racist policies of our land.
On a national level, the NAACP grades politicians based on how often their votes align with the NAACP’s recommendation on civil rights legislation. These recommendations are a barometer for legislation that will advance racial justice for black communities and other communities of color. The NAACP’s grading systems include cabinet appointments, bills that require federal contractors to comply with basic federal labor laws, and nondiscrimination laws and bills that require public school accountability with historically marginalized groups.
If a candidate cannot obtain at least a “B” grade, they should not receive any corporate political donations. Call it #StopHatePolitics. The overall concept, to advocate that companies only allocate political spending to politicians earning at least a “B” grade, could be extended to state and major city and county legislators.
If they are interested some of the organizations driving #StopHateforProfit such as the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), Color of Change, the NAACP, and the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) would be a great choices to spearhead and or partner on #StopHatePolitics. I welcome organizations to reach out if they are interested in further discussions.
Insisting on full disclosure and accountability policies for corporate political spending must be a tenet of #StopHatePolitics. “Dark money” (money donated by corporations without disclosure) needs to see the light. Accountability policies ensure companies examine the downstream impact of their donations. The public data can be used to audit if the company is supporting candidates that improve or undermine racial and economic equity.
Corporate transparency of political donations has been gaining momentum over the last few years. According to the Center for Political Accountability, 60% of America’s leading companies have adopted some form of political spending disclosure. However, there is still a lot of work to do. Leadership from institutional investors would be transformative. Because these investors, (examples include BlackRock, Fidelity, and Vanguard) hold large stakes in many companies, if they voted for full political donation disclosure and accountability it would effectively become the norm for public companies.
Many public companies will oppose a #StopHatePolitics campaign. They wouldn’t want their political spending constrained by lawmakers earning a “B” grade. They will also argue the need to donate money to a broad range of politicians to help gain support for legislation important to their business. While that may be true in some cases, it is far past time for companies to take a stand if we are going to make more progress on racial justice.
All of us as citizens must stand united against racial injustice and fittingly, corporations must too, be citizens united in this just cause.
Author Strategy First, former senior Microsoft executive