Michigan companies can’t say that Black Lives Matter and then support an attack on Black voters.

The Defend Black Voters Coalition is a multi-racial coalition with the shared value that we must build a democracy in which everyone, regardless of race, gender, or income, has the right to an equal say in what happens in our communities. To stop the Suppress MI Vote initiative, an anti-democratic initiative currently underway to make it harder for Black and low-income people to vote, the coalition will hold corporations accountable for financially supporting elected officials seeking unfair political advantage through voter suppression.

A company taking the Defend MI Vote Pledge would commit to cut off all forms of financial support to legislators supporting voter suppression, including direct contributions, contributions through conduit entities, or “revolving door” contributions where legislators or senior staff are employed in well-paid jobs following their time in office.

Core Targets

Our core targets are companies that the steering committee has chosen to focus engagement on based on a combination of 
1. Their political contributions to legislators strategically making it harder for Black people to vote,
2. The company’s presence in and/or marketing to the Black community, and
3. The company’s hypocritical statements in support of Black lives or against voter suppression.

General Motors (GM) & Ford

Do GM and Ford care about Black lives or Black car buyers?

GM and Ford have both made statements in support of Black lives and in opposition to voter suppression when there was political pressure to do so. Yet GM and Ford (including their affiliated entities) are the 4th and 6th largest corporate contributors, giving $128k and $107k respectively since 2016 to the supporters of the worst voter suppression bills that would disenfranchise Black voters in Michigan. The auto industry’s supply chain has also contributed. The MI Auto Dealers Association has given $133k and the MI Manufacturer’s Association (MMA), whose members include major suppliers for GM and Ford, has given $26k since 2016. On October 26th, the MMA honored key vote suppressors Senator Jon Bumstead and Representative Luke Meerman in a closed-door ceremony as “Legislators of the Year.” 

GM and Ford’s actions should match their words.

GM CEO Mary Barra, following the murder of George Floyd: “Collectively, and in time, we will be part of the change. For now, my personal commitment is to ensure that the leadership of GM … consistently remains aware of our responsibility to bring awareness to injustice. Because awareness leads to dialogue… dialogue leads to understanding… and understanding leads to change.” 

Joint statement signed by Mary Barra (GM) and Jim Farley (Ford): “Government must avoid actions that reduce participation in elections — particularly among historically disenfranchised communities, persons with disabilities, older adults, racial minorities and low-income voters.” 

Bill Ford, Ford Executive Chairman, following the murder of George Floyd: “We are not interested in superficial actions. This is our moment to lead from the front and fully commit to creating the fair, just and inclusive culture that our employees deserve.”

Ford’s “Racial and Social Justice” Webpages: “Ford stands in solidarity with all people – especially black and brown people – against injustice, racism, violence and hate.” 

DTE and CMS Energy

Taking back our power from DTE and Consumers Energy:

DTE and CMS (parent of Consumers Energy) have come out with statements in support of Black lives and DTE has weighed in specifically against voter suppression. DTE and CMS (including their affiliated entities) are the 2nd and 3rd largest corporate contributors, giving $ 234k and $ 225k respectively since 2016 to the supporters of the worst voter suppression bills in Michigan. Meanwhile, these companies have been widely criticized for reliability and safety issues – especially in low-income communities — and are currently being investigated by the Michigan Public Service Commission due to extensive power outages across the state in the summer of 2021. Despite their rhetoric, it seems an underinvestment in keeping the electric power on in Black and low-income communities coincides with an ample investment in the legislators attempting to suppress the political power of those same communities.

And the company’s affiliated PAC may only be the tip of the iceberg. A recent investigative report found massive amounts of dark money that’s difficult to trace and not included in the above figures. It states “Tracking the political efforts of DTE and CMS is difficult because the companies’ leaders have often used nonprofit organizations that don’t have to disclose the sources of their money. In annual filings with the Michigan Public Service Commission, the two utilities have reported a total of $55 million in political, civic and related spending from 2017 through 2020.” And from 2017 through 2019, nonprofit organizations that either have been funded by the utilities or have utility executives on their boards have spent at least $12 million “on television ads touting candidates, contributions to the state’s political parties, giving to organizations tied to officeholders or donations to groups that got involved in promoting state candidates”. The giving tracked in the report included $650k to a Michigan Republican Party account from a nonprofit with three DTE officials on board.

DTE & CMS’s actions should match their words.

Joint statement signed by DTE CEO Jerry Norcia: “Government must avoid actions that reduce participation in elections — particularly among historically disenfranchised communities, persons with disabilities, older adults, racial minorities and low-income voters.”

CMS website: “We are deliberate in our actions to foster inclusion and take a public stand against racism, hate and bias.”

DTE Website: DTE commits “to stand united in rejecting all forms of discrimination and violence in our workplace and in our communities.”

CMS Executive Vice President Rejji Hayes following the murder of George Floyd: “We want to do our part as Michiganders work together to confront these difficult questions, examine deeply rooted issues and create solutions that move us toward a brighter future”

On Deck

 The Defend Black Voters Coalition is considering expanding core engagement to other top contributors to suppressors of the Black vote.
Top 25 contributors to the supporters of voter suppression legislation in Michigan since 2016.

Methodology footnote: Data pulled by OpenSecrets on November 16, 2021. Total contributions from affiliated PACs since 2016 to the legislators that voted for any of the worst Michigan voter suppression bills that went to a floor vote in either or both chambers (HCR 5, S 285, S 303, S 304, SR 25). All 79 of these legislators voted for all of these bills that went to a vote in their chamber.  

 

The Defend Black Voters Coalition

Community Change Action is the convening partner of the Defend Black Voters Coalition