Bloomberg — Three corporate giants that pledged to pay for employees to travel for reproductive medical care also contributed to the campaigns of anti-abortion governors.
Amazon.com Inc. (AMNZ), AT&T Inc. (T), and Walt Disney Co. (DIS) have said that they will help cover travel costs for employees who need care that isn’t available where they live. At the same time, state campaign-finance records show that the companies or company affiliates have financially supported leaders who are trying to reduce access to abortions.
Governors Bill Lee of Tennessee, Greg Abbott of Texas, Glenn Youngkin of Virginia and Ron DeSantis of Florida -- Republicans seeking to limit abortion rights -- each received contributions from at least one of the companies or associated political action committees before the court’s decision. Aside from Youngkin, who took office in January, each are facing re-election fights this year.
Last week, the US Supreme Court overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, leaving the availability of reproductive health care including abortion, miscarriage management and treatment for ectopic pregnancies subject to differing state laws. More than half of US states have banned or are expected to ban or severely limit abortion.
It’s common for companies, their workers or other entities with ties to businesses to give money to politicians on both sides of the aisle. Whether giving behavior might change because of new abortion laws, which have the potential to add costs and create medical-privacy and other workplace challenges, is unclear.
“In most cases, the companies’ support for the politicians is not because of the abortion issue,” said Jane Sumner, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, who studies the relationship between public opinion and the role of corporations in politics. Companies give money to maintain positive relationships with politicians “in case they ever need it,” she said.
Still, companies could face pressure, including from within, to change their strategies. At Amazon, nearly 1,800 employees had signed a petition as of Thursday calling on the company to take “immediate and decisive action against the threat to our basic human rights with the overturning of Roe v. Wade,” according to internal documents reviewed by Bloomberg.
The employees suggest Amazon not “aid or abet anti-abortion causes,” including through donations to public figures. Amazon managers on Wednesday shut down a conversation on the matter on an internal message board dedicated to diversity and inclusion, by saying “we will pass on the feedback shared here to leaders for their consideration.”
Spokespersons for Amazon, AT&T and Disney didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment on their contributions to candidates.
Amazon told staff on May 2 that it would pay as much as $4,000 to cover travel costs to obtain an abortion or other care. A leaked draft of the Supreme Court decision was published later that day. But Amazon also backed the campaigns of top officials in states where abortions could become more difficult or impossible to obtain.
That includes Virginia, where several years ago, after a noisy nationwide search for a location, Amazon decided to build its so-called HQ2 in the Washington, D.C., suburb of Arlington. The company has said it expects to bring more than 25,000 jobs to the region.
Abortion is currently legal in Virginia through the second trimester of pregnancy in all situations, and allowed in the third trimester if multiple physicians affirm that continuing a pregnancy would lead to the death of the mother or “substantially and irremediably” harm her. After the Supreme Court ruling, Youngkin said he planned to seek a ban on abortion in the state after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
Through subsidiary Amazon Services LLC, the tech giant gave $125,000 in 2021 to Youngkin’s campaign, according to state records and company disclosures. It also gave $20,000 to Youngkin’s Democratic rival, Terry McAuliffe.
Other states where Amazon has a large presence are also expected to bar abortions. In Tennessee, Lee signed a 6-week abortion ban that has limited exceptions in July 2020. The measure was blocked by a federal court, but went into effect Tuesday after the reversal of Roe. A trigger law banning nearly all abortions is set to take effect later this year.
Amazon gave $25,400 to Lee’s campaign, and $23,500 to the state senate campaign of Lieutenant Governor Randy McNally, from 2019 to 2021, according to state records and company disclosures.
The company created more than 31,000 jobs in Tennessee by the end of 2021, according to its website.
Like Amazon, AT&T said it would pay for employees to travel for care that they can’t receive in the state where they live, though it didn’t specifically mention abortion. The Dallas-based company has backed Republicans who supported abortion bans, including in Florida and Texas, according to state records and reports by Insider and Popular Information.
Between 2020 and 2022, an AT&T Texas PAC sent $165,000 to a political action committee aligned with Governor Abbott, and $70,000 to a committee aligned with Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick. State campaign finance records don’t show any contributions from AT&T, or affiliated groups, to Beto O’Rourke, Abbott’s Democratic challenger.
Abbott signed a ban on abortions after six weeks last year. When the Supreme Court overturned Roe last week, that law was briefly supplanted by a 19th-century law banning abortions entirely. A judge blocked that pre-Roe law on Tuesday, but only for some clinics. Currently, those Texas clinics can provide abortions up to six weeks of pregnancy.
In Florida, AT&T contributed $80,000 to Friends of Ron DeSantis, a political action committee aligned with the Republican governor and potential 2024 presidential candidate, in 2020 and 2021, according to state records.
AT&T’s website states that the company, when making decisions about political contributions, takes into account human rights and the economic empowerment of women.
“Contributions made by the company or its employee PACs to an individual or political organization do not mean the company or its employee PACs support or agree with every position taken by contribution recipients on every issue,” the website states.
In April, DeSantis signed a law prohibiting abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. After the Supreme Court’s decision, he tweeted that “the prayer of millions have been answered” and that the state “will continue to defend its recently-enacted pro-life reforms.” A state court blocked the abortion law on Thursday.
Disney is based in California, but it is one of Florida’s largest landowners, and its theme parks anchor the Sunshine State’s economically crucial tourism industry. Last week, the company said it would cover costs for employees who need to travel to get an abortion.
There has been increasing acrimony between Disney and DeSantis. The governor signed legislation in March that forbids “classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity” in kindergarten through third grade, or “in a manner that is not age-appropriate.” Opponents said the law is discriminatory and Disney employees pushed the company to oppose it.
Yet a Disney subsidiary has also been a significant donor to DeSantis’s campaign. Disney Worldwide Services Inc., which does electrical repair for company operations, contributed at least $100,000 to Friends of Ron DeSantis from 2019 to 2021, state records show.
At the company’s annual shareholder meeting in March, Chief Executive Officer Bob Chapek said Disney was “reassessing our approach to advocacy, including political giving in Florida and beyond.”
A few days later, the company told employees it was pausing political contributions in the state. In response, DeSantis signed a law setting up a process to revoke the special tax status Disney enjoys at its Disney World theme park near Orlando.