Warren Buffett, Amazon, Starbucks and others condemn voting restrictions in letter

Edward Helmore in New York
·3 min read
<span>Photograph: Andy Kropa/Invision/AP</span>
Photograph: Andy Kropa/Invision/AP

Amazon, BlackRock, Google, Starbucks, billionaire investor Warren Buffett and hundreds of other companies published a letter on Wednesday condemning “discriminatory legislation” designed to hinder voting rights in the US.

The letter – the biggest statement yet from corporate America – follows weeks of heated debate over corporate opposition to a series of Republican-sponsored bills that critics charge will restrict voting rights in states across the US.

Related: Michigan executives sign letter against voting restrictions, including Ford and GM CEOs

“We Stand for Democracy,” the double-page, centrefold advertisement published in the New York Times and Washington Post, begins. “Voting is the lifeblood of our democracy and we call upon all Americans to take a nonpartisan stand for this basic and most fundamental right of all Americans,” the statement reads.

The statement was organized by two of the US’s most prominent Black executives, Kenneth Chenault, former chief executive of American Express, and Kenneth Frazier, the chief executive of Merck. Both executives have been prominent in opposition to restrictive voting laws and in leading a response from the business community.

The statement does not address specific election legislation in states but it is the clearest indication yet that US corporations are looking to present a united front despite calls from several senior Republicans, including the former president Donald Trump and Senator Mitch McConnell, to stay out of politics.

In an interview with the Times, Chenault said: “It should be clear that there is overwhelming support in corporate America for the principle of voting rights.” Frazier added that the statement was intended to be non-partisan.

“These are not political issues,” he said. “These are the issues that we were taught in civics.”

The effort to rise above partisan politics comes after several companies, including Coca-Cola and Delta Airlines, found themselves at the center of a dispute over voting rights legislation passed in Georgia. Lawmakers in the state threatened to withdraw tax breaks after the companies spoke out against the measures and others, including Trump, called for boycotts.

The new statement comes after Chenault and Frazier convened a Zoom call of 100 CEOs over the weekend and is notable also for several companies that did not add their names, including Coca-Cola, Delta, Home Depot and JP Morgan.

Coca-Cola and Delta declined to comment, according to the Times, while Home Depot said in a statement on Tuesday that “the most appropriate approach for us to take is to continue to underscore our belief that all elections should be accessible, fair and secure.”

The JPMorgan Chase chief executive, Jamie Dimon, made a statement on voting rights before many other companies, saying: “We believe voting must be accessible and equitable.”

Some signatories, including Buffett, chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway, elected to sign personally rather than on behalf of their companies. Buffett has previously stated that businesses should not be involved in politics but he did not put his personal political views “in a blind trust at all when I took the job”.

The statement follows a declaration on Tuesday by automakers ahead of voting legislation hearings in Michigan that they oppose election laws that would inhibit voting.

In a separate statement, GM posted on Twitter: “We are calling on Michigan lawmakers and state legislatures across the nation to ensure that any changes to voting laws result in protecting and enhancing the most precious element of democracy.

“Anything less falls short of our inclusion and social justice goals,” the company said.