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Tamara Keith and Amy Walter on Georgia’s voting law, election fundraising rules

NPR’s Tamara Keith and Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report join Judy Woodruff to discuss the latest political news, including Georgia’s new voting law, the resulting corporate fallout, and what President Joe Biden and former president Donald Trump's 2020 campaign donation refunds say about U.S. election fundraising laws.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    The backlash to Georgia's new voting laws is forcing companies to decide if they do business in the state.

    Here to analyze the political calculations behind the pressure and the response, our Politics Monday team, Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report and Tamara Keith of NPR.

    Hello to both of you. So good to see you on this Monday.

    Amy, I'm going to start with you and the Georgia law. The reverberations continue, a number of companies taking a stand, Coca-Cola, Delta Air Lines, Black — prominent Black leaders taking a stand against, and then, over the weekend — or Friday, Major League Baseball pulling out the All-Star Game from Atlanta.

    My question is, what — how does this kind of pressure sit with political leaders? Does it — can it be effective in getting them to change a law?

  • Amy Walter:

    You know, Judy, this is really fascinating.

    Actually, it has been a fascinating development that has been going on for the last 10 or 15 years. It didn't really start with this Georgia law. We saw it, for example, in places like North Carolina with the bathroom bill. We have seen it on gay rights in other states, gun laws in other states.

    Really, what's happening — and this is especially true in the South. These metro regions, like Atlanta, like Dallas, like Houston, that used to be pretty Republican have now become much more Democratic, much more blue, and, in some cases, deep blue.

    And this is where these companies are headquartered. And many of their employees, they come from those blue areas. They live in those blue areas. And their expectations are that the companies that they work for reflect the values that they share.

    And that's, I think, a big reason why we're seeing so many of these companies in states where the company has an incredible influence, but where that influence is really relegated to just the metro region.

    And so, unfortunately, Judy, what I think happens is, it divides the state once again between those who live in and around that big metro area, who say, absolutely, we support this, and those who live outside of it, who believe that their values and views aren't being taken into consideration.

    And I think, for so many voters, they are left then forced to pick a side. Do I choose the place where I live right now? And, in some cases, you're in companies that are agreeing much more with what's going on in other states than what's going on in their own.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, Tam, how do you see the political dynamics of this? How effective is it?

  • Tamara Keith:

    Well, and what I'll say is, as Amy was alluding to, Governor Kemp in Georgia came out swinging and called this cancel culture, which is becoming an increasingly common refrain from Republicans, in recent months especially.

    And what you do have here, though, is Major League Baseball taking — Major League Baseball would not choose to do something unpopular broadly with the public. Major League Baseball, just like other companies who have made and taken stands, for instance, in North Carolina before, several years ago, these companies are following public opinion.

    It may not be public opinion is in the state where they're taking that action, but it is national public opinion. Companies do what is in their best commercial interest. And that is what we have been seeing play out again and again.

    And just one other example, as Amy alluded to, is what happened with Governor Kristi Noem in North — in South Dakota vetoing a transgender sports bill, in part under pressure from the NCAA, which is hugely influential. When these major sporting institutions pull out of a place, as they did in Indianapolis — in Indiana several years ago, as the All-Star Game is happening with baseball, there are huge economic implications.

    But is this going to change the Georgia voting law? That's not clear. And, also, the Georgia voting law is a bit more nuanced than the fight about it is now making it seem.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    No question. And it's something I know that we continue to report on here. But you're right about the influence of athletics, of sports, and how that can cut across our cultural and our political world in so many different ways.

    The other thing I want to bring up with the two of you, though, Amy, a flashback to 2020 and campaign finance, The New York Times reporting over the weekend that the Trump campaign ended up having to refund $64 million in donations from people who were, in a way, misled by the way they were — the money was being solicited.

    There was a line, I guess, early in the year, when people were solicited, saying, please sign up here for a recurring donation. But then, as the year went on, the font was smaller and smaller. People didn't see what they were signing up for.

    And now the campaign is having to pay up, and, by the way, the Biden camp being found guilty of the same thing, paying back, but a much smaller amount, just — just — $6 million.

    But what does this say about our campaign finance system that this is going on?

  • Amy Walter:

    Yes, it's a really interesting story.

    And I think it's something that, in this era now of fund-raising that is becoming — where small-dollar donors are becoming more and more dominant, that these stories may become more regular.

    Look, the Trump campaign depended much more on small donors than the Biden campaign did. And remember, at the very end of the summer, it became clear that, even though the Trump campaign started out with this huge fund-raising lead, they had squandered a lot of that money, they'd spent a lot of that money before they hit the fall, and they were desperate to raise a lot of money very quickly.

    That's hard to do when people are only writing you a $20 or $25 check at a time. The good news about small-dollar donors, Judy, is that it democratized the process, right? It brought regular people in. It's not just people with big bank accounts who can have these fancy dinners and invite politicians there. It now regular people who can have influence.

    But that doesn't mean that it's not without some of its own drawbacks. And this is clearly one of them.

  • Judy Woodruff:


  • Tamara Keith:

    Yes, there is nothing like a bad fundraising number to make your money dry up, especially your big-dollar money, because those big donors want to support a winner. They want something for their investment.

    And so this that — what this story highlights is that, after the election was over, all of these refunds go out. But at the time when they were hitting these big milestone donor amounts, donation amounts, it was based on a premise that involved a lot of people giving money they didn't know they were giving.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So much money washing around in our politics today, it's hard to even contemplate, even comprehend what it all is. But this story definitely caught our attention.

    Tamara Keith, Amy Walter, Politics Monday, thank you both.

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