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

The Defend Black Voters Coalition–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–is standing up against the corporate attack on democracy for all. To stop the Suppress MI Vote initiative, an anti-democratic effort currently underway that will make it harder for Black and low-income people to vote, the coalition will hold corporations accountable for bankrolling the politicians seeking unfair political advantage through voter suppression. 

While GM, Ford, DTE, Consumers Energy, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, and Delta Dental of Michigan have all proclaimed that Black lives matter, their political spending shows that what really matters to these companies is putting their corporate profits over people, even if that comes at the expense of Black lives.To prove they truly support democracy for all, these corporations must take the  Defend MI Vote Pledge to cut off all forms of financial support to the politicians attacking the freedom of Black and working class people to vote.

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.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan & Delta Dental of Michigan

Funding voter suppression with taxpayer and tuition dollars

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan (BCBSM) and Delta Dental of Michigan (Delta Dental) have made public claims in support of democracy for all and racial justice, but their political spending shows us what side they’re really on. 

BCBSM (including affiliated entities) is the largest corporate contributor to the legislators pushing Jim Crow-style voter suppression in Michigan, giving $329,000 directly since 2016. In the same period, BCBSM gave $355,000 to the party committees supporting these legislators for a total of $684,000.  Delta Dental (including affiliated entities) is the 5th largest corporate contributor to these politicians in the same period, giving $184,000 both directly and to party committees.  

What’s more troubling is that BCBSM and Delta Dental fund voter suppression with profits from lucrative contracts with the state government as well as the largest cities, counties, and universities in Michigan. These health insurance companies are hired to support the health of our community, not suppress our voices. The fact that BCBSM and Delta Dental fund voter suppression is particularly problematic, considering access to the vote is inherently connected to public health. Our elected officials must hold these companies accountable. 

BCBSM and Delta Dental’s actions should match their words.

BCBSM social media statement following the murder of George Floyd: “Together, we can raise our voices against the racial inequalities that exist throughout our country.”

Joint statement signed by Dan Loepp (BCBSM): “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.” 

Declaration of War on Racism (signed by Delta Dental): “We commit to being fully conscious of institutionalized power afforded through white privilege. … and alter policies, practices, and procedures that marginalize, oppress, and/or keep out racially oppressed people, institutions, and communities.” 

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. Yet, GM and Ford (including their affiliated entities) are the 4th and 6th largest direct 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. Additionally, GM has given $5k and Ford has given $120k to the party campaign committees supporting these politicians over the same period. The auto industry’s supply chain has also contributed. The MI Auto Dealers Association has given $133k directly and the MI Manufacturer’s Association (MMA), whose members include major suppliers for GM and Ford, has given $26k since 2016. On October 26th, 2021, the MMA went so far as to honor 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 Consumers Energy

Taking back our power from DTE and Consumers Energy:

DTE Energy and Consumers Energy have come out with statements in support of Black lives and DTE has weighed in specifically against voter suppression. DTE and Consumers Energy(including their affiliated entities) are the 2nd and 3rd largest direct corporate contributors, giving $234k and $ 225k respectively since 2016 to the supporters of the worst voter suppression bills in Michigan. Additionally, DTE has given $317k and Consumers Energy has given $156k to the party campaign committees supporting these politicians over the same period for a total of $551k and $381k respectively.

Meanwhile, these companies have been widely reported for both exuberant costs and low reliability – especially in low-income communities. Michiganders (85% of whom must use DTE or Consumers Energy) suffer the highest electric rates and the worst power outages in the Midwest, largely because these two companies have dumped millions of dollars into Lansing to ensure regulators and elected officials work for them and not the people. Now, following windfall profits during the pandemic, DTE is requesting the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) approve a 9% rate increase and Consumers Energy recently filed a similar request. 

The DBV Coalition is organizing to take back our power by organizing utility customers across Michigan to hold the MPSC accountable to deny the rate increase and push state lawmakers to pass desperately needed utility reform and protect voting rights. 

 

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