Warren Buffett Joins Effort by Corporate America to Condemn Voting Restrictions

April 18, 2021 by Dan McCue
Warren Buffett

Billionaire investor Warren Buffett joined hundreds of other capitalists and corporate titans in signing an open letter condeming “discrimnatory” legislation designed to curtail voting rights.

The letter, which appeared under the headline “We Stand for Democracy,” appeared as a double-page, centerfold advertisement in Thursday’s editions of The New York Times and Washington Post.

It began with the statement: Voting is the lifeblood of our democracy and we call upon all Americans to take a nonpartisan stand for this basic and most fundamental right of all Americans.”

The letter was organized by Kenneth Chenault, former chief executive of American Express, and Kenneth Frazier, the chief executive of Merck, two of the nation’s most prominent Black executives.

Both have been outspoken in opposition to restrictive voting laws and in leading a response from the business community.

This past weekend, they convened a Zoom call of over 100 CEOs to garner support for the statement.

Though the letter steers clear of directly addressing  specific election legislation in individual states, it is the clearest indication yet that those leading many of America’s most successful corporations are looking to present a united front as they deflect calls from Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and other members of the GOP to stay out of politics.

Buffett, chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway, elected to sign personally rather than on behalf of his company, a practice followed by several of the other signatories. 

The so-called “Wizard of Omaha” has long maintained that businesses should not be involved in politics but he’s also said he did not put his personal political views “in a blind trust at all when I took the job.”

Earlier this month JPMorgan Chase chief executive Jamie Dimon became one of the first chief executives to speak out on voting rights, telling CNN, “ We regularly encourage our employees to exercise their fundamental right to vote, and we stand against efforts that may prevent them from being able to do so.”

A week later, in his annual letter to shareholders, a document that is widely read on Wall Street, Dimon delved more into the nature of partisan politics and offered his prescription for turning down the temperature.

“Our public policy failures are not partisan issues. Our problems are neither Democratic nor Republican – nor are the solutions,” Dimon wrote. “Unfortunately, however, partisan politics is preventing collaborative policy from being designed and implemented, particularly at the federal level.”

Dimon went on to say that Democrats need to acknowledge legitimate concern of Republicans that “money sent to Washington often ends up in large wasteful programs, ultimately offering little value to local communities.”

“While we need good government, it is not the answer to everything,” he said.

But he also said Republicans need to “acknowledge that America can and should afford to provide a proper safety net for our elderly, our sick and our poor, as well as help create an environment that generates more opportunities and more income for more Americans.” 

He added that “we should spend more – think infrastructure and education funding.”

In related news, on Tuesday, several Detroit automakers released a letter ahead of voting legislation hearings in Michigan that they oppose election laws that would inhibit voting.

In a separate statement, GM posted on Twitter: “We are calling on Michigan lawmakers and state legislatures across the nation to ensure that any changes to voting laws result in protecting and enhancing the most precious element of democracy.

“Anything less falls short of our inclusion and social justice goals,” the company said.

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