On Saturday, 100 big business leaders joined a Zoom call to plot a unified response to voting-integrity legislation pending in many states, similar to a law recently passed in Georgia. While billed as “non-partisan” efforts to defend voting rights and democracy, the players involved, their preferred policies, and the undemocratic pressure they seek to exert proves the virtual gathering was nothing of the sort.
CBS News’ Ed O’Keefe first confirmed the existence of the call on Saturday, identifying American Airlines, United, the Atlanta Falcons, Levi Strauss, Walmart, Viacom CBS, Twitter, LinkedIn, and AMC Theatres as participants. O’Keefe identified Yale Professor Jeff Sonnenfeld as helping organize “the confab.” Later, on its webpage, The Coalition for Inclusive Capitalism disclosed that it had convened the meeting in partnership with Sonnenfeld’s Yale Chief Executive Leadership Institute and the Leadership Now Project.
The Coalition for Inclusive Capitalism’s summary of the event quoted Sonnenfeld and other organizers, such as Daniella Ballou-Aares, CEO of the Leadership Now Project, Lynn Forester de Rothschild, chairwoman of the Coalition for Inclusive Capitalism, and Meredith Sumpter, the CEO of the Coalition for Inclusive Capitalism. So, who are these organizations and their leaders?
The Coalition for Inclusive Capitalism’s 23-page “Framework for Inclusive Capitalism” provides some insight of its positions that, in short, seek to transfuse leftist politics into American capitalism. With “valuable input” from the AFL-CIO, SEIU, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and several academic institutions, and funding from The Rockefeller Foundation, Ford Foundation, and others, the Coalition’s “Framework” focuses on everything from increasing the minimum wage to a “living wage” to changing state corporation laws and Securities and Exchange Commission regulations to alter corporations’ responsibility to shareholders, to instead inure to society and the environment. The Coalition also seeks to compensate executives, not based on stock performance but based on meeting “broader corporate goals,” particularly those that affect worker rewards and quality along race, ethnic, and gender lines.
Coalition chairwoman de Rothschild proves a solid booster for Democrats and the Democratic National Committee, according to Federal Election Commission (FEC) records.
While not as free-flowing with her money as de Rothschild, Sumpter’s political donations also find a home in the pockets of Democrats.
The Leadership Now Project, which markets itself as a “membership organization of business and thought leaders taking action to fix American Democracy,” likewise holds left-wing views on politics and preferred candidates. For instance, before the 2020 election the organization highlighted its pick of 20 “New Leaders to Watch.” It consisted of 18 candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives and two candidates for the U.S. Senate. They were all Democrats.
Absent from the list was Michigan Senate candidate John James, an African-American business leader and veteran. It’s a strange omission for an organization that proclaimed “in selecting our candidates, we prioritized talent and diversity.” But rest assured, The Leadership Now Project noted that while its list does not “currently include any Republicans,” the organization “look[s] forward to endorsing other principled Republicans in the future.”
Democrat heavy gifting also appears in a search of contributions by Ballou-Aares, the cofounder and CEO of the Leadership Now Project:
More troubling than The Leadership Now Project’s one-sided promotion of political candidates who seem in line with the partisan views of its leaders is the organization’s warped view of “protecting our democracy.” In an executive summary, the organization claims a “specific agenda” to tackle “systemic racism” and “repair American democracy” by limiting voter ID laws, granting felons the right to vote, addressing purported discrimination and underrepresentation by the Electoral College, and preventing states from cleaning up voter rolls. The organization’s website proclaims ranked-choice voting a priority.
The real tell, though, is from The Leadership Now Project’s claim to prioritizing “innovation and ideas for a modern democracy,” to which Saturday’s virtual gathering gave meaning: The modern democracy desired by Saturday’s participants is one our corporate and ivory tower overlords control, rather than the peons in Georgia or the other red states. If the voters don’t see things the same way, they will be made to.
That brings us back to fellow organizer Sonnenfeld, who claimed “the gathering was an enthusiastic voluntary statement of defiance against threats of reprisal for exercising their patriotic voices.” But two short weeks ago, it was Sonnenfeld levying threats to bring Georgia to heel, suggesting Google and Microsoft’s workforces reconsider recently announced regional offices in Atlanta in retaliation for the democratically elected state legislature’s passage of a mild voting integrity law.
So, it seems, the threats can only run one way: from the powerful boardrooms to the unwashed masses. Should the populace complain, they’ll be shown what real democracy means—unless we show them first by voting against policies that give these corporations outsized power.
Margot Cleveland is a senior contributor to The Federalist. Cleveland served nearly 25 years as a permanent law clerk to a federal appellate judge and is a former full-time faculty member and adjunct instructor at the college of business at the University of Notre Dame.
The views expressed here are those of Cleveland in her private capacity.
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