A Republican group is spending millions of dollars in funding from major US corporations such as CitiGroup and Chevron to protect their conservative strongholds on the country.
Bruce Freed, Center for Political Accountability president, said, companies don’t consider the consequences of their political spending. “Corporations either turned a blind eye or they didn’t pay attention, but they’re responsible through their spending.”
The Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC) – which held the key to the GOP’s political takeover a decade ago – launched the Right Lines 2020 campaign last September, taglined: “Socialism starts in the states. Let’s stop it there, too.”
Dave Abrams, the RSLC deputy executive director, said the RSLC and its supporters were leading the fight against “radical leftists”.
It’s hoping to meet a $125m investment goal in an effort to retain 42 state legislature seats that the group says are key to holding power in the House of Representatives in battleground states including Wisconsin, Texas, Florida and New York. The group recently appointed party strategist Karl Rove and ousted White House chief of staff Reince Priebus to its board.
The RSLC’s goal is to get Republicans elected in down-ballot races. This can mean funding state candidates and campaign materials, including attack ads. For corporations, funneling their money through the group is a simple way to support lawmakers sympathetic to their bottom line and exert political influence.
The RSLC has gone to extreme lengths to undertake its mission, changing the political landscape in the process. In the run-up to the 2010 midterms, it led an unprecedented strategy, the Redistricting Majority Project, or Redmap, to flip legislatures in competitive states. Once in charge, Republicans manipulated district maps to their advantage, a tactic known as gerrymandering. “He who controls redistricting can control Congress,” Rove famously said in 2010. While both Democrats and Republicans gerrymander, Redmap changed the game.
In 2012, Democrats won 1.4m more votes than Republicans, yet Republicans maintained a 33-seat margin in the House. A 2019 USC study found that 59 million Americans now live under minority rule, where the party that receives the minority share of the vote in a state election controls the majority of seats in the subsequent state legislature.
“Redistricting historically was something that occurred behind the scenes in smoke-filled rooms and the people didn’t pay attention,” said Michael Li, senior counsel at the Brennan Center. “Now it’s something that angers people.”
Rigged maps and their corrosive effects on democracy have drawn fierce protests in states like Wisconsin and Michigan over the past decade. Crowds came out once again last year after the supreme court’s influential ruling drawing a line between political and racial gerrymandering, putting even more pressure on the parties to win control of the redistricting process.
Over half of the RSLC’s $17m contributions at the end of 2019 came from public companies and trade associations, according to an analysis by The Center for Political Accountability (CPA), which tracks corporate political spending. The largest single donor, however, was the conservative dark money group the Judicial Confirmation Network with $1.1m, the same group behind the nomination of conservative supreme court justice Brett Kavanaugh.