- The Washington Times - Friday, April 29, 2022

Conservatives have claimed a series of victories as they escalated their assault on “woke” corporate culture with a campaign of letters, boycotts and shareholder activism.

They pointed to wins with the closure of the CNN+ streaming service, Florida’s move to strip Disney of preferential tax benefits over its LGBTQ political lobbying, and Tesla billionaire Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter to loosen its censorship of conservatives.

“This hasn’t been a good week for woke corporations,” said Gregory T. Angelo, president of the conservative New Tolerance Campaign.

The activists also put the spotlight on American Express, Goldman Sachs, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, and WarnerMedia for funding left-wing political causes, including transgender rights and diversity policies that the activists say discriminate against White people.

Three conservative groups — New Tolerance Campaign, Color Us United and Consumers’ Research — sent a letter asking American Express CEO Steve Squeri to end several policies at the credit card company’s shareholders meeting this Tuesday. 

The letter highlights internal company documents about staff training in “microaggressions” and support for Black Lives Matter. It also cites documents showing that American Express ties 15% of executive bonuses to a colleague diversity policy that incentivizes managers to hire and fire employees based on their race and sex.

SEE ALSO: Republicans call to cancel Senate’s Citibank contract over ‘abortion tourism’

Mr. Angelo, a former executive director of the conservative LBGTQ group Log Cabin Republicans, said “woke” virtue signaling “doesn’t get much worse than AmEx.”

“AmEx corporate training, hiring and promotion practices, and bonus policies aren’t just another example of wokeism run wild,” he said in an email to The Washington Times. “They’re likely illegal and could have a detrimental effect on the share price.”

American Express called the claims “absolutely false.”

“American Express has a longstanding commitment to living our company values, which include fostering a diverse and inclusive culture where all colleagues can thrive,” the company said in a statement to The Times.

The statement said the company is “fully transparent” in annual reports about its diversity, equity and inclusion policies.

On another front, nine Republican senators asked the Senate sergeant-at-arms to remove Citibank as the chamber’s credit card provider because the bank finances “abortion tourism” by paying for employees in states with pro-life laws to travel out of state to terminate pregnancies.  

SEE ALSO: Florida restores 9 ‘woke math’ K-12 textbooks after changes

Senators signing the letter were Steve Daines of Montana, chair of the Senate Pro-Life Caucus, Ted Cruz of Texas, Mike Braun of Indiana, and Marco Rubio and Rick Scott, both of Florida.

Also last week, the American Conservative Values ETF investment group announced a boycott of CNN parent company Warner Bros. Discovery Inc., which shuttered CNN+ after buying the left-leaning cable news network from AT&T on April 8.

“Ownership of CNN was a significant factor underlying ACVF’s boycott of AT&T and as a result, we felt our boycott should follow the ownership change to WBD,” the group said in a statement noting that it had divested its holdings in Warner Discovery.

Investor William Flaig, the group’s CEO, said he intends “to boycott as many companies hostile to conservative values as possible.”

“We have created a growing community of politically conservative investors whose insights and concerns are eagerly sought out by ACVF’s management team,” he said.

Meanwhile, three corporate boards shot down conservative proposals at annual shareholder meetings.

Goldman Sachs, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson shareholders on Thursday voted against proposed audits of their companies’ political stances on transgender and race issues.

In its proxy statement, the Goldman Sachs board unanimously urged shareholders to vote against the proposal to audit its political and charitable contributions as “unnecessary and not in the best interests of our firm or shareholders.”

In the proxy statement, Goldman Sachs said its charitable donations to advocacy groups like “10,000 Women” and “One Million Black Women” had “driven inclusive economic growth and opportunity.”

Rejecting a similar proposal, Pfizer’s board said in its proxy statement that “Pfizer already publicly discloses how its expenditures relating to its participation in the political process … align with its purpose, values and policies.”

In response to a proposed audit of its anti-racism training and hiring policies, Johnson & Johnson’s board said in a proxy statement: “Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) is built into Our Credo and has long been a core value of the Company.”

The conservative National Center for Public Policy Research bought stock in the companies to introduce the proposals. It presented proposals at 16 shareholder meetings so far this year, including at Disney, Coca-Cola, Bank of America and Citigroup.

“Most of them fail because of how BlackRock, Vanguard, State Street, ISS and Glass Lewis dominate proxy voting. It’s rigged,” said Ethan Peck, an associate with the center’s Free Enterprise Project who presented the Pfizer proposal.

Ed Rensi, a former CEO of McDonald’s USA who heads a “boardroom initiative” to promote the proposals, said conservatives will keep launching them regardless of their success rate.

“Americans are tired of corporations going ‘woke,’ and they’re starting to realize they have to power to change that,” Mr. Rensi said in an interview.

Most companies involved in the conservative activism did not respond to a request for comment.

Analysts said there are signs that conservatives are starting to win the battle for America’s boardrooms.

Rob Collins, who on Tuesday started Coign to be the first conservative credit card, said consumers have tired of funding companies that lobby against election integrity laws and parental rights legislation.

“Too many corporations are investing their customers’ money in political and social priorities that align with the left’s agenda,” Mr. Collins said.

Richard Morrison, a senior fellow at the libertarian Competitive Enterprise Institute, said conservatives will soon get to decide whether to “demand new policies that cater to their preferences.”

“They will likely have a lot of victories in the near future at moving CEOs away from fringe far-left policy positions,” Mr. Morrison said.

“But they could easily overplay their hand if they start demanding that every major company endorse an opposite set of social goals.”

• Sean Salai can be reached at ssalai@washingtontimes.com.

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