April 14, 2016
Publicly, companies like Coca-Cola don't mind giving North Carolina and Mississippi a hard time. But privately, the tirades are taking their toll. The price of coddling LGBT activists is a steep one, especially for CEOs who rely on the very leaders they're condemning for robust state economies. For most companies, the tension between checking the gay-friendly box and protecting their bottom line is at the tipping point. And it won't be too long before more companies realize that in the battle between cultural bullies and state conservatives, businesses have the most to lose.
Sure, CEOs saved themselves from being called the names their companies are now calling Governors Pat McCrory (R-N.C.) and Phil Bryant (R-Miss.) -- but for now, they're just being used. The relationships they think they have with liberal activists are as one-sided as the Left's definition of tolerance. When these same CEOs are at the statehouse door fighting high taxes, regulation, and government intrusion, their partners from this debate will be long gone. There's a presumption of corporate loyalty from the Left that's never repaid -- and yet still, the business community is willing to go along, getting nothing in return except a gold star on the annual "equality index."
To Governor Phil Bryant, who made sure that these same companies have the right to live and work according to their own moral code, that's baffling. Yesterday, in a conversation with me on "Washington Watch," the governor talked about his disappointment with these CEOs -- who, he agrees, have nothing to gain from their opposition to conservative lawmakers. "Each time companies need our help in reducing taxes and improving the environment for the companies and corporations in workforce training, they come to those of us who are also very socially conservative. And they need to understand that if they're going to continue to go against our social conservative positions, it's going to be hard for us to support them in the energetic manner we have in the past."
Bryant, who's added 47,000 jobs in Mississippi since he was elected, knows who truly holds the power in this debate -- and it isn't the cultural bullies. "When the Left is waiting as a lion to pounce on [businesses] -- to do what Bernie Sanders was saying: to raise their taxes to the 90th percentile, to make sure they're forced [join] unions, that they have transgendered restrooms. You go down the list of the leftist agenda and force that on the corporations and see how long they will last." What's more, this radical agenda was a bridge too far even for Democrats a few short years ago. Now, Bryant points out, "[Businesses] say they're not going to North Carolina because men who are defining themselves as females shouldn't go into a bathroom with little girls? They're pulling out of North Carolina because of that? Where on earth have we come to? ...And we're berated and attacked and criticized for that? Strange times."
But just because these CEOs are blasting North Carolina and Mississippi in statements doesn't mean they'll follow through with their wallets. Reporters at BuzzFeed contacted almost two dozen businesses that denounced North Carolina's law to give companies the right to set their own bathroom policies -- but who were also frequent donors to the Republican Governors Association (RGA). Not one company said they'd be changing their political donations. In other words, this was all posturing -- painful posturing, certainly, for the conservatives on the receiving end. "Large businesses would be wise to be very careful," GOP consultant Brad Todd warned.
Based on the latest rankings, North Carolina has the second-best economic climate in the entire country -- and it benefits local companies to keep it that way. These CEOs, who are starting to look like puppets for radical activists, need to keep in mind that voters -- who also happen to be consumers -- agree with these laws! It doesn't take an M.B.A. to recognize that alienating the 96 percent of the buying population who don't identify as homosexual or transgendered isn't the smartest (or most profitable) policy.
"Of course we want to create an environment that's competitive and conducive to business," Governor Bryant explained. "But at the same time, we cannot abandon our conservative social principles to be able to have corporations that flee from us at the first leftist email that comes out. They've got to learn that the two go together."
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.