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Former American Express CEO Kenneth Chenault. Photo: Earl Gibson III/WireImage)

Hundreds of companies and executives released a letter on Wednesday condemning legislation that restricts "any eligible voter from having an equal and fair opportunity to cast a ballot," per the New York Times.

Why it matters: It's the most concerted action yet by big business in opposition to GOP-sponsored bills at the state level that limit mail-in ballots, implement new voter ID requirements and slash registration options, among other measures.

  • Critics say the restrictions will disproportionately impact voters of color.
  • Advocates of the bills have said they will secure the vote, and in some instances have cited former President Trump's baseless allegations of voter fraud in the 2020 elections.

The signatories of the letter, which will appear in advertisements taking up two full pages in Wednesday's New York Times and Washington Post, include General Motors, Netflix, Starbucks, Amazon, BlackRock, Google and Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett, among others.

Via New York Times' David Gelles

The statement was organized by former American Express CEO Kenneth Chenault and Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier, who last month led 72 Black executives in demanding corporate America speak out in the wake of Georgia's new voting restriction.

  • Their open letter helped spur an outpouring of condemnation from corporations ranging from Georgia-based Delta Air Lines and Coca Cola to Facebook, Apple, Microsoft and Google, though not all of those companies signed onto Wednesday's statement.
  • Chenault and Frazier took part in a historic Zoom summit Saturday, where more than 90 business leaders discussed how to respond to the bills.

What they're saying: “Throughout our history, corporations have spoken up on different issues,” Chenault told the Times. “It’s absolutely the responsibility of companies to speak up, particularly on something as fundamental as the right to vote.”

  • The statement does not refer to bills in specific states, but opposes “any discriminatory legislation or measures that restrict or prevent any eligible voter from having an equal and fair opportunity to cast a ballot.”
  • “These are not political issues. These are the issues that we were taught in civics," Frazier told the Times.

The other side: A leading conservative group is targeting the business community with a seven-figure ad buy on CNBC and local TV defending Georgia's new voting law from its corporate critics, as Axios reported on Tuesday.

  • Republicans like Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) have decried the companies speaking out as "woke corporate hypocrites," and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has called for executives to "stay out of politics."

Go deeper: The CEO job now includes political activism

Go deeper

Apr 14, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Exclusive: $1 million ad buy defends Georgia law to business critics

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A leading conservative group is targeting the business community with a seven-figure ad buy on CNBC and local TV defending Georgia's new voting law from its corporate critics, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: By focusing on the C-suite through a network it watches, Heritage Action for America is offering a rejoinder to some companies — even Major League Baseball — after they waded so prominently into politics.

Will Smith's "Emancipation" becomes first major film production to pull out of Georgia

Left: Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R). Right: Actor and producer Will Smith. Photos: Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg and Paras Griffin via Getty Images

Actor Will Smith and director Antoine Fuqua said Monday they are moving their upcoming film production, "Emancipation," out of Georgia in response to the state's new voting restrictions.

Why it matters: The passage of the law has spurred outrage across the U.S., with activists calling it a move to disenfranchise Black voters. Backed by Apple Studios, the slavery-era film is the first major production to leave the state due to the voting law, the New York Times reports.

Pelosi's Republican playbook

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

As Republicans fight among themselves, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is showing the myriad ways she deals with the GOP herself.

Between the lines: We've seen Pelosi cut opponents off at the knees, like she did with President Trump, or pretend to forget their names, as she did to Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.). Now she's feeding oppo research against her House counterpart, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), so others can use the same harsh rhetoric to frame the Republicans as the party of dysfunction.