It is fairly typical for Democratic politicians to decry the evil, corrupt influence of large corporations in politics. They frequently argue that large corporations have too much sway over policy because their wealth and power get politicians to do their bidding.

Workers load an All-Star sign onto a trailer after it was removed from Truist Park in Atlanta on Tuesday. Major League Baseball’s decision to relocate the All-Star Game to Coors Field in Denver is no better than their using their wealth to influence elections and policy. John Spink/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP

In fact, this has been much of the drive for the campaign finance reform movement for the past five decades: limiting the influence of large corporations by limiting their ability to spend money on politics. On the flip side, Republicans have generally resisted those calls, as they’ve mostly sided with business interests and their policy goals. Lately, though, that dynamic has started to shift, with the most recent controversy focused on, of all things, Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game.

To be sure, it didn’t really start with the All-Star Game, but with a controversial new voting law in Georgia. There’s been a lot of overheated rhetoric regarding the changes Georgia Republicans made to the state’s election laws, and liberal activists began pressuring big businesses to stop doing business there in response. One of those big businesses that heeded the call was Major League Baseball: Set to hold its draft and all-star game in Atlanta, it decided to relocate after the law was passed. Other major corporations, especially those based in Georgia, like Delta Air Lines and Coca-Cola, also spoke out against the new law, pleasing progressives and angering conservatives. Conservatives started a movement to boycott Major League Baseball, so even as they continually denounce “cancel culture,” they employ it themselves when it’s politically convenient for them.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen Republicans embrace their own version of cancel culture, either: Here in Maine, they tried to censure fellow Republicans Kevin Raye and Roger Katz because they endorsed Joe Biden in the 2020 election. Raye and Katz were rather curious targets, as both are former state senators who haven’t shown any interest in running for higher office in the future, nor do they serve in leadership roles in the party.

Essentially, it was a movement by some on the state Republican Committee to punish private citizens for speaking their own minds – a totally absurd proposition. It was not just absurd, but also hypocritical, when one considers how many of those who wanted to punish Katz and Raye for speaking out likely bitterly decried Twitter and Facebook for banning Donald Trump. If you complain about social media companies limiting speech, you’re using a double standard when you turn around and try to punish people for what they say a few months later. Moreover, if you don’t think companies ought to be limiting what you say, you shouldn’t be boycotting them for taking a position with which you disagree.

It’s similarly hypocritical for liberals who have spent decades trying to limit the political power of big corporations to suddenly try to use their influence. A large corporation deciding not to do business in a state because they disagree with a law is no better than their using their wealth to influence elections and policy. The eagerness of progressive activists to embrace large corporations show that much of their support for campaign finance reform is really about helping their side, not limiting big money in politics. If they were serious about that, they would be pressuring these companies to stay out of politics altogether, rather than rallying to their cause. That would be the honest approach, so of course they don’t do it.

The large corporations that have criticized the law aren’t angels, nor are they devils, for taking this particular position. They’re simply responding to public pressure. They made a calculation and decided that it was better for them financially to criticize the new law rather than to defend it or stay silent. Some will be proven right and others will be proven wrong, but for most of them it was a business decision, not a moral one. It’s easy to tell that these corporations haven’t suddenly developed an abiding interest in human rights: Many of them continue to do business in the People’s Republic of China, a dictatorship with an extensive history of persecuting minorities.

If you want to complain about corporate influence, feel free, but don’t go to them to side with you in political fights. If you want to complain about cancel culture, feel free, but then don’t try and punish people merely for disagreeing with you. In either case, it’s outrageously hypocritical, and those who engage in such behavior can’t ever be counted on to truly stand on principle.

Jim Fossel, a conservative activist from Gardiner, worked for Sen. Susan Collins. He can be contacted at:
Twitter: @jimfossel

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