Corporate Influence over Government Is Bad…Unless They Hold the Correct Positions

Hollywood, NFL lobby to block law in Georgia to the cheers of the left.


"Guardians of the Galaxy"
Disney/Marvel "Guardians of the Galaxy"

It's the left's worst nightmare. Several large, powerful corporations are using their economic dominance to manipulate the outcome of the legislative process in Georgia. It's happening right now. It's what they've been warning us all about since the Supreme Court's Citizens United v. FEC decision. This is what happens when you allow unfettered corporate speech and involvement in politics! It's a corruption of the democratic republic. Wake up, people!

Oh, wait. They're using their economic influence to try to kill a "religious freedom" bill that would protect faith-based organizations from having to participate or provide their services in such a fashion that runs counter to their religious beliefs. This is obviously about same-sex marriage. Churches under the bill could not be forced to perform same-sex weddings, nor could they be forced to let same-sex couples use their facilities for same-sex ceremonies.

Georgia's legislative bodies have passed the bill and the state's governor is now deciding whether to sign it. Now the big news is that several entertainment companies that take advantage of Georgia's extremely friendly tax credits are threatening to pull out if the law passes. Disney has threatened to pull movie productions from the state, and the NFL has said passing the law could threaten a bid for the Super Bowl.

To be clear, this law has only a very modest effect outside faith-based organizations, mimicking the text of federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act. That means that an individual can challenge an application of a law on the basis of it interfering with the exercise of that person's faith. But if the state can prove that that law furthers a compelling government interest, the person can still be forced to comply with the law. Despite what is showing up in some stories, it is far from a "freedom to discriminate" law.

This bill is a far cry from what passed yesterday in North Carolina, where legislators and the governor decided to overrule Charlotte's LGBT discrimination protection laws entirely and also require individuals to use the restrooms of their birth gender in schools and government facilities.

Anyway, we won't find much concern from opponents of this legislation over the impact of corporate intervention in the activities of the government. Indeed, the Human Rights Campaign has called on Hollywood to boycott Georgia if the government passes the law. This is the same Human Rights Campaign that has already endorsed Hillary Clinton, who has railed over the Citizens United decision and has made it part of her platform to select Supreme Court justices who will overturn it.

It's within the rights of these major corporations to decide whether to do business with a state based on its political climate or for any other reason. And it's well within their rights to lobby and publicly say so. But this is a right that is in part guaranteed by the Citizens United decision that many of the left attack at every opportunity. This is clear and obvious corporate speech that is intended to influence political outcomes via economic pressure.

Considering what just happened in North Carolina, opponents of this bill should be thinking about whether they would have nearly as much leverage to fight this legislation without Hollywood's help. The fact that activists and corporations are on the same side in this fight does not mean that this speech is "different" somehow from corporate lobbying to pass tax breaks or subsidies (both of which Hollywood and the NFL get in spades) or to get other special deals from legislators. It's still speech. It's still lobbying. It is still corporations trying to control what the government does. That a particular group of activists sees itself as the beneficiaries does not change the dynamic.