How the Capitol Riot Thrust Big American Companies Deeper Into Politics

After the U.S. Capitol riot, Twitter Inc. banned President Trump’s social-media account. Publisher Simon & Schuster canceled publication of a book by Sen. Josh Hawley (R., Mo.), who led a challenge to the Electoral College’s presidential-race results, and Airbnb Inc. said it would block people involved in the violence from booking rooms. Stripe Inc. stopped processing direct payments from Mr. Trump’s campaign website.

Companies from Marriott International Inc. to Walmart Inc. paused donations to dozens of Republican lawmakers who voted against certifying the Electoral College votes, with some others demanding refunds.

“Words alone are not enough. We are committed to action,” wrote Dow Inc. CEO Jim Fitterling in a memo telling employees that the chemical maker was halting political giving to any Republicans who objected to certifying President-elect Joe Biden’s win for an election cycle—two years for House members and up to six for senators.

It was a far cry from the days when companies strove to appear apolitical, embodying—if not always living up to—the late economist Milton Friedman’s view that “the business of business is business.”

“We’re seeing a convergence of social issues that used to be outside the domain of what business executives would comment on,” said Judy Samuelson, founder and executive director of the Business and Society Program at the Aspen Institute, a think tank, and author of “The Six New Rules of Business,” which addresses such shifts. “The rule of thumb was if there’s not a direct connection back to our business model or something that we hold dear, it’s basically we stay away from politics.”

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