Big businesses are no longer viewed as reliable allies on conservative policy priorities that do not protect their bottom lines, party operatives say. Currently, various Republicans are reportedly considering policies that will punish corporations ranging from Big Tech to so-called “woke capitalists.”
The split was heightened under former President Donald Trump, who supported higher tariffs and trade policies that were heavily opposed by big business. Georgia’s new election law was passed after Trump narrowly lost the state to President Joe Biden.
Since then, Republicans have discussed taking a harder line on antitrust laws in a departure from party orthodoxy that dates back to Ronald Reagan. A trio of GOP senators sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission arguing the agency took too light a regulatory approach to Google during the last Democratic administration.
“The FTC’s failure to enforce the nation’s antitrust laws signaled to similarly dominant market participants, in tech or elsewhere, that compliance is optional,” they wrote. “In other words, lax enforcement of our laws encourages lawlessness.” One of the signatories, Missouri Republican Sen. Josh Hawley, has proposed a $15 an hour minimum wage for big companies with revenues in excess of $1 billion. This is the same rate socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont would like to impose nationally."
“For decades, the wages of everyday working Ameircans have remained stagnant while monopoly corporations have consolidated industry after industry, securing record profits for CEOS and investment bankers,” Hawley noted in a statement at the time.
However, the GOP criticism of corporate America is not confined to populists like Hawley. No less a champion of corporate political speech than Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has raised the issue. “Parts of the private sector keep dabbling in behaving like a woke parallel government,” the Kentucky Republican said. “Corporations will invite serious consequences if they become a vehicle for far-left mobs to hijack our country from outside the constitutional order.”
Some of those consequences could include seeing their antitrust exemptions yanked, as some Republican senators have floated doing to Major League Baseball after the All-Star Game was moved out of Atlanta in protest of the Georgia election law. “This could be a real game changer for the party,” said a Republican strategist.
Republican campaign arms saw a large drop in financial support from corporate PACs last year, but so did their Democratic counterparts. The pandemic appears to be a bigger reason for the downturn than politics. But many corporations were put on the defensive about giving to congressional Republicans who contested the Electoral College results after the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol.
Nevertheless, Republicans are likely to resist Biden’s proposal to raise the corporate income tax rate to 28%. It was cut to 21% from 35% under Trump in a bid to boost American competitiveness.