McConnell warns corporations off political speech, says it’s ‘stupid’

McConnell warns corporations off political speech, says it’s ‘stupid’
FILE - Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., speaks as the Senate Rules Committee holds a hearing on the "For the People Act," which would expand access to voting and other voting reforms, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, March 24, 2021. The bill has already passed in the House. (Source: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday “it’s quite stupid” for corporations to speak out politically, intensifying his warnings for big business to stand down as Congress delves into voting rights, President Joe Biden’s infrastructure package and other defining issues.

Speaking in Kentucky, the GOP leader said he still wants companies to give freely to political campaigns. But as lawmakers wrestle with big issues, he warned CEOs off the kinds of public statements made by Delta Air Lines, Coca-Cola and Major League Baseball in opposition to Georgia’s new restrictive voting laws.

“It’s quite stupid to jump in the middle of a highly controversial issue,” he told reporters.

“Republicans drink Coca-Cola too, and we fly and we like baseball,” he said. “It’s irritating one hell of a lot of Republican fans.”

The colorful language from the typically reserved Republican leader shows the dilemma ahead for the party in the post-Trump era. Many Trump-styled lawmakers are bucking big business and leaning more heavily into the populist, working-class themes championed by the former president — even as they rely on deep-pocketed business donors to fuel their political campaigns.

By wading into the debate, McConnell is situating himself in the emerging culture wars with the progressive groups that are pressuring business not to sit silently on voting rights, gun violence and other big issues before Congress.

Congress will take center stage in many of these battles, the Senate in particular, as Biden’s $2.3 trillion infrastructure package and other priorities head for votes.

“They have the right to participate in the political process,” McConnell told reporters. But he said, “If I were running a major corporation, I’d stay out of politics.”

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