Mass. AG calls on Mass. businesses to defend voting rights

By Greg Ryan, Senior Reporter  | June 9, 2021

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey used her annual Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce address on Wednesday to urge businesses to be more proactive in fighting the rollback of voting rights in other states, saying “a powerful voice in the business community really makes a difference.”

In wake of the 2020 election, in which former President Donald Trump leveled baseless allegations of widespread voting fraud, states like Florida and Georgia have passed legislation that puts limits on absentee and mail-in voting, among other restrictions. Lawmakers in several other states are attempting to do so.

Healey contended in a virtual chamber forum that the measures represent a threat to the stability of the U.S. economy. She pushed companies not to contribute to the campaigns of politicians she said are attacking voting rights and seeking to undermine democracy.

“If you’re trying to cover the bases, and throw money both ways… know there are some really bad actors out there right now that do have America’s best interests in mind,” Healey said.

The attorney general, seen as a possible contender for governor in 2022, also lauded those companies that give employees paid time off to vote, volunteer at election polls, or to register voters. Wayfair Inc. and Cambridge biotech Arrakis Therapeutics are among those that offered PTO last year for at least one of those activities.

While it’s acceptable to debate whether it makes sense to expand voting rights, “we sure as hell shouldn’t be taking away people’s ability to vote,” Healey said.

Asked by Boston Chamber CEO Jim Rooney whether she believes business leaders have been loud enough in their opposition to the legislative efforts, Healey said companies need to speak louder on the issue, as do others.

Angela Onwuachi-Willig, dean of the Boston University School of Law, and other panelists speaking at a Boston Business Journal panel discussion on race, equity and business, shared Healey’s sentiment: “All business owners have voices, No. 1,” Onwuachi-Willig said. “In terms of the voices that politicians listen to, I think that all business owners, and small-business owners in particular, are really a powerful voice.”

Healey acknowledged that it can be difficult for companies to publicly announce their stance on a controversial political issue. After Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines Inc.’s chief executive came out against the Georgia voting changes, it received blowback from conservative customers, and politicians in Georgia voted to strip the company of a tax break.

“This is a really big one. This isn’t just any other issue. This is fundamental,” Healey said. “If you look at what has happened over the last year… the lengths that people seem willing to go to, for purposes of holding onto power, is unbelievable.”

Healey also used the speech to call for pay equity and to highlight the need to bring back women who left the workforce because of Covid-19. Rooney ended the forum by asking whether she had any announcements about her future to share with chamber members. On that, Healey demurred.

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By Greg Ryan, Senior Reporter  | June 9, 2021

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey used her annual Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce address on Wednesday to urge businesses to be more proactive in fighting the rollback of voting rights in other states, saying “a powerful voice in the business community really makes a difference.”

In wake of the 2020 election, in which former President Donald Trump leveled baseless allegations of widespread voting fraud, states like Florida and Georgia have passed legislation that puts limits on absentee and mail-in voting, among other restrictions. Lawmakers in several other states are attempting to do so.

Healey contended in a virtual chamber forum that the measures represent a threat to the stability of the U.S. economy. She pushed companies not to contribute to the campaigns of politicians she said are attacking voting rights and seeking to undermine democracy.

“If you’re trying to cover the bases, and throw money both ways… know there are some really bad actors out there right now that do have America’s best interests in mind,” Healey said.

The attorney general, seen as a possible contender for governor in 2022, also lauded those companies that give employees paid time off to vote, volunteer at election polls, or to register voters. Wayfair Inc. and Cambridge biotech Arrakis Therapeutics are among those that offered PTO last year for at least one of those activities.

While it’s acceptable to debate whether it makes sense to expand voting rights, “we sure as hell shouldn’t be taking away people’s ability to vote,” Healey said.

Asked by Boston Chamber CEO Jim Rooney whether she believes business leaders have been loud enough in their opposition to the legislative efforts, Healey said companies need to speak louder on the issue, as do others.

Angela Onwuachi-Willig, dean of the Boston University School of Law, and other panelists speaking at a Boston Business Journal panel discussion on race, equity and business, shared Healey’s sentiment: “All business owners have voices, No. 1,” Onwuachi-Willig said. “In terms of the voices that politicians listen to, I think that all business owners, and small-business owners in particular, are really a powerful voice.”

Healey acknowledged that it can be difficult for companies to publicly announce their stance on a controversial political issue. After Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines Inc.’s chief executive came out against the Georgia voting changes, it received blowback from conservative customers, and politicians in Georgia voted to strip the company of a tax break.

“This is a really big one. This isn’t just any other issue. This is fundamental,” Healey said. “If you look at what has happened over the last year… the lengths that people seem willing to go to, for purposes of holding onto power, is unbelievable.”

Healey also used the speech to call for pay equity and to highlight the need to bring back women who left the workforce because of Covid-19. Rooney ended the forum by asking whether she had any announcements about her future to share with chamber members. On that, Healey demurred.

READ MORE ON BIZJOURNALS.COM