with Mariana Alfaro

Welcome to The Daily 202 newsletter! Tell your friends to sign up here.

Corporations are people, too. And some of those people want to beat back a wave of GOP-driven legislative proposals imposing new restrictions on voting, risking a backlash from a party still largely in Donald Trump’s hands.

The former president’s falsehood that he was cheated out of a second term has led Republicans to push more than 360 elections bills setting new voting restrictions in 47 states, according to the Brennan Center. Where GOP officials characterize those efforts as safeguards against systemic fraud, for which there is no evidence, Brennan calls them voter suppression.

Those proposals, in turn, have fueled a backlash from corporate America, and then a backlash-to-the-backlash from Trump-aligned Republicans, deepening a political rift between the GOP and traditional allies in a cash-rich constituency, with unpredictable results for the party’s future fundraising.

On Saturday, more than 100 chief executives and corporate leaders met online to plot a strategy to fight those proposals, including the new law in Georgia prompting Major League Baseball to move its All-Star Game from the Peach State.

“Executives from major airlines, retailers and manufacturers — plus at least one NFL owner — talked about potential ways to show they opposed the controversial legislation, including by halting donations to politicians who support the bills and even delaying investments in states that pass the restrictive measures, according to four people who were on the call, including one of the organizers, Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, a Yale management professor. …

Leaders from dozens of companies such as Delta, American, United, Starbucks, Target, LinkedIn, Levi Strauss and Boston Consulting Group, along with Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank, were included on the weekend’s Zoom call, according to people who listened in.”

Over at the Wall Street Journal, which broke the news of the call, Emily Glazer, Chip Cutter, and Te-Ping Chen report:

Kenneth Chenault, the former chief executive of American Express Co., and Kenneth Frazier, CEO of Merck & Co., urged the leaders to collectively call for greater voting access, according to several people who attended. Messrs. Chenault and Frazier cautioned businesses against dropping the issue and asked CEOs to sign a statement opposing what they view as discriminatory legislation on voting, the people said.

The new statement could come early this week, the people said, and would build on one that 72 Black executives signed last month in the wake of changes to Georgia’s voting laws. Mr. Chenault told executives on the call that several leaders had signaled they would sign on, including executives at PepsiCo Inc., PayPal Holdings Inc., T. Rowe Price Group Inc. and Hess Corp. , among others, according to the people. PayPal confirmed it has signed the statement. PepsiCo, T. Rowe Price and Hess didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.”

The approach carries considerable C-suite risk.

Trump pressed his faithful earlier this month to boycott Cisco, Citigroup, Coca-Cola, Delta Air Lines, JPMorgan Chase, Major League Baseball, Merck, UPS, and ViacomCBS, in retaliation for their opposition to the new voting laws, including the one in Georgia. (The former president does not appear to have joined the boycott himself.) And some Trump supporters have joined him in a fight against what they’re calling “corporate wokeness.”

Republican senators have pushed to revoke Major League Baseball’s antitrust exemption. Georgia’s GOP-held House voted to revoke a tax break on jet fuel worth tens of millions of dollars to Delta. (The Senate did not take up the measure.)

Earlier this month, Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell joined the fray

“My warning to corporate America is to stay out of politics,” McConnell said at a news conference in Kentucky, before adding: “I’m not talking about political contributions.”

But corporate America may feel it has no other good alternatives to getting involved.

After a very public show of support last year for social justice, spurred by the Black Lives Matter movement, high-profile companies drew threats of boycotts from progressives this year over their silence about the voting laws.

And while Trump rewarded corporations by signing the Republican tax law of 2017, the president also roiled markets and manufacturers with tariffs and trade wars and threats of retaliation against individual companies that displeased him.

In Georgia, GOP legislative leaders and Gov. Brian Kemp (R) worked behind the scenes with the business community to try to find a balance between satisfying voters who believe Trump’s false claims and avoiding accusations of voter fraud.

“They failed on both counts,” my colleagues Amy Gardner and Mike DeBonis report.

Over at the Associated Press, Brian Slodysko and Josh Boak took a penetrating look at the underlying dynamics of the feud.

A solid majority of Republican voters are white (86%) and older than 50 (62%), according to APVoteCast, a national survey of the 2020 electorate. Yet figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that workers are more racially diverse and younger than the Republican base.

"James Bailey, a management professor at George Washington University, published an analysis last year that suggested people who identified as Democrats cared more about a company's political activity than Republicans do. Of business people, he said the uproar over the Georgia voting law ‘is a great opportunity for them to get on board with the young socially active consumer and to do so without much cost.’"

Slodysko and Boak also crunched numbers showing a decline in the importance of corporate cash for the Republican party.

“Just 10 GOP megadonors account for half of the giving to major super political action committees controlled by Republican congressional leaders since 2012, collectively pouring $541 million into the committees, according to an analysis by The Associated Press of donors who gave over $1,000. The megadonors also contributed twice as much as conventional PACs and other groups that represent a broad swath of corporate interests.”

It's not the first time Delta has taken a stand in response to political criticism.

In 2017, the airline and Bank of America withdrew financial support from a Manhattan-based theater company that portrayed Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” as a Trump-like character, to predictable if questionably literate outrage.

What’s happening now

Domestic terrorism incidents have soared to new highs in the United States, driven chiefly by white-supremacist, anti-Muslim and anti-government extremists on the far right, according to a Washington Post analysis of data compiled by the Center for Strategic and International Studies," write our colleagues Robert O'Harrow Jr., Andrew Ba Tran and Derek Hawkins.

Violence flared in suburban Minneapolis after a police officer fatally shot a man after a traffic stop. “Relatives of Daunte Wright, 20, who is Black, told a tense crowd gathered at the scene in the northern Minneapolis suburb [of Brooklyn] Sunday afternoon that Wright drove for a short distance after he was shot, crashed his car, and died at the scene,” the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports. “Protesters later walked to the Brooklyn Center police headquarters. … Officers repeatedly ordered the crowd of about 500 to disperse as protesters chanted Wright's name and climbed atop the police headquarters sign, by then covered in graffiti. Police used tear gas, flash bangs and rubber bullets on the crowd.” 

The protests come as the trial resumed of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer charged in the death of George Floyd. “Law enforcement has already been bracing for unrest once the jury reaches a verdict, erecting barricades and marshaling an intense police presence at the Hennepin County Government Center, where the trial resumes [today],” the Tribune reports. 

Iran accused Israel of attacking a key nuclear site. “Iranian officials said Sunday that the nuclear site, Natanz, had suffered a mysterious electrical outage, which the head of Iran’s civilian nuclear agency later blamed on ‘nuclear terrorism’ and another official called a ‘crime against humanity,’” Shira Rubin and Kareem Fahim report. “In comments quoted Monday by Iran’s state-run Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif blamed the attack on Israel. ... On Sunday, the Israeli public broadcaster Kan, citing unnamed Israeli and U.S. intelligence sources, reported that Israel was behind the cyberattack on Natanz and that the ‘Mossad was involved.’” 

Twenty-five Chinese air force aircraft entered Taiwan’s air defense identification zone this morning, the island said. “While there was no immediate comment from Beijing, the news comes after the U.S. State Department on Friday issued new guidelines that will enable U.S. officials to meet more freely with Taiwanese officials, further deepening ties with Taipei,” Reuters reports. “It was the largest daily incursion since the ministry began regularly reporting Chinese Air Force activities in Taiwan’s ADIZ last year.”

To start your day with a full political briefing, sign up for our Power Up newsletter.

Lunchtime reads from The Post

  • This land is sacred to the Apache, and they are fighting to save it,” by Dana Hedgpeth: “On Tuesday, a House Natural Resources subcommittee will hold a hearing on saving Oak Flat [which is about 60 miles east of Phoenix]. Like so many sacred Native American sites, Oak Flat is caught in a web of deep history, politics and legal wrangling. A mining company wants the land because it sits on one of the largest untapped copper deposits in North America. That doesn’t sit well with the Apache and other tribes, including the Zuni, Yavapai, O’odham and Hopi, all of whom consider the site sacred.”
  • Biden faces pressure from Pelosi, Sanders over whether to double down on Obamacare or expand Medicare,” Jeff Stein reports: “The White House is facing diverging pressure from two powerful allies — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) — over whether to use an upcoming spending package to strengthen the Affordable Care Act or expand Medicare eligibility. Pelosi’s office is pushing the White House to make permanent a temporary expansion of Affordable Care Act subsidies that were included in the $1.9 trillion stimulus legislation last month. ... [While Sanders] is arguing for lowering the age of Medicare eligibility to 55 or 60 and expanding the program for seniors so it covers dental, vision and hearing care.”

… and beyond

  • Mitch McConnell tends his legacy 8,000 miles away,” by Politico’s Andrew Desiderio: “McConnell's championing of representative government in Myanmar, mostly run by a military junta since it declared its independence in 1948, is so vital to his identity that after a recent military coup there, Biden consulted with the GOP leader to coordinate the U.S. response. ... Involving McConnell so closely has helped the Biden administration create a united front with lawmakers in both parties as they push toward a common goal of restoring Myanmar's legitimately elected government, led by longtime McConnell ally Aung San Suu Kyi.” 
  • The stark racial disparity among students returning to Sacramento City Unified classrooms,” by the Sacramento Bee’s Sawsan Morrar and Alexandra Yoon-Hendricks: “Only about one in three Asian households in the district will send their children back to the classroom in the district — the lowest rate of any ethnic group, and a trend that’s been reflected in school districts nationwide.”

The first 100 days

Biden and Vice President Harris will meet with four Democrats and four Republicans today to discuss his $2 trillion jobs and infrastructure plan. 
  • The meeting, scheduled for 1:45 p.m., is meant to gauge how much bipartisan support the White House can garner for the package, which will likely land in Congress in the coming weeks.
  • Those attending today’s meeting include: Reps. Don Young (R-Alaska), Donald Payne Jr. (D-N.J.), Garret Graves (R-La.) and David E. Price (D-N.C.); and Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) and Alex Padilla (D-Calif.).
  • Cantwell is the top Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee, while Wicker is her GOP counterpart. “The panel plays a critical role in congressional debates around railroads and broadband internet access, which form a critical portion of the Biden administration’s infrastructure plan,” Tony Romm and Jeff Stein report. Graves and Payne “belong to a separate panel of House lawmakers actively considering legislation to fund and improve the nation’s highways and roadways while implementing new programs to reduce carbon emissions.”
  • Manchine Politics, once again: Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) has raised issues with the infrastructure plan’s tax hikes and, last week, objected to using reconciliation to push the package. The White House, though, is trying to get ahead of the key centrist. This morning, the administration “sought to illustrate the case for infrastructure reform in all 50 states, putting out fact sheets that showed how years of under-funded projects nationwide had resulted in poor roads, bridges, waterways and broadband connections," our colleagues write. "In Manchin’s home state, the White House pointed to more than 1,500 bridges and 3,200 miles of highway in ‘poor condition,’ prompting the administration to conclude: ‘The need for action is clear.’”
  • “Administration officials have acknowledged that the package will change as Biden negotiates with lawmakers, who are returning to Washington on Monday after a two-week recess,” John Wagner points out.
The administration will name former senior NSA officials to top cybersecurity jobs. 
  • The White House will name former NSA deputy director John C. “Chris” Inglis as the first national cyber director, ending months of speculation over whom the administration would name to the position, Ellen Nakashima reports. The position was created in legislation in December.
  • The administration will also nominate Jen Easterly, a former NSA intelligence officer who helped create the U.S. Cyber Command more than a decade ago, to head the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.
  • The White House is also expected to nominate Robert Silvers, a former DHS assistant secretary for Cyber Security during the Obama administration, as undersecretary for policy at DHS. All are expected to face smooth confirmations, Nakashima notes.
  • Biden will also nominate Chris Magnus, a critic of Trump anti-immigration policies, to lead Customs and Border Protection, the Times’s Zolan Kanno-Youngs reports. Magnus currently serves as the Tucson police chief. Ur Jaddou, who formerly served as chief counsel at Citizenship and Immigration Services, was tapped to lead the immigration agency.
After a second biting incident, Major Biden is receiving additional training. 
  • The first family’s younger German shepherd is receiving training “to help him adjust to life in the White House,” Michael LaRosa, first lady Jill Biden’s press secretary, said. You could say he’s being sent to... “Sitwell Frens.”

The future of the GOP

Over the same weekend that Trump called Mitch McConnell a “dumb son of a bitch,” the political arm of the Senate GOP presented the former president with an award.
  • “Trump was honored as a ‘champion of freedom,’ receiving a new award that will be bestowed annual by the National Republican Senatorial Committee,” John Wagner reports.
Kentucky state Rep. Charles Booker (D) is considering a Senate run against Rand Paul. 
  • Booker raised his profile last year in the Kentucky Democratic Senate primary, but lost the nomination to Amy McGrath. This morning, Booker said he is forming a campaign exploratory committee to run again.

Sen. Josh Hawley raised more than $3 million during the first three months of the year – and after his attempt to block election results. 

  • The haul underscores “how the Missouri Republican converted his high-profile opposition to the certification of the 2020 election into big fundraising support,” Politico reports.
  • “Hawley managed to raise nearly $600,000 during the 2½ weeks following the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. ... It represents a massive increase for Hawley. By comparison, he raised just $43,000 during the first quarter of the last election cycle, immediately after taking office. The senator is not up for reelection until 2024, and his totals are unusual for a senator who is not in-cycle

Quote of the day

I think China knows that in the early stages of covid, it didn’t do what it needed to do, which was to in real time give access to international experts, in real time to share information, in real time to provide real transparency,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on NBC’s “Meet the Press." Blinken renewed calls for greater transparency from China over the origins of the coronavirus.

The pandemic

China’s top disease control official, in a rare admission, said current vaccines offer low protection and that mixing them might be the best move.
  • “China has distributed hundreds of millions of doses of domestically made vaccines abroad and is relying on them for its own mass immunization campaign. But the director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Gao Fu, said at a conference Saturday their efficacy rates needed improving,” the AP’s Joe McDonald and Huizhong Wu report.
  • “It’s now under consideration whether we should use different vaccines from different technical lines for the immunization process,” Gao said in a presentation on Chinese coronavirus vaccines.
  • “He also praised the benefits of mRNA vaccines, the technology behind the two vaccines seen as the most effective, Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, months after questioning whether the then-unproven method was safe. In a message to The Associated Press, Gao said late Sunday night he was speaking about the effectiveness rates for ‘vaccines in the world, not particularly for China.’ He did not respond to further questions about which vaccines he was referring to.”
  • “Experts say mixing vaccines, or sequential immunization, might boost effectiveness. Researchers in Britain are studying a possible combination of Pfizer-BioNTech and the AstraZeneca vaccine.”
U.S. drugmaker Regeneron said it would seek approval from federal authorities for its coronavirus antibody cocktail.
  • The drug was shown to reduce the risk of symptomatic infections in people living with someone sick with the virus, Erin Cunningham reports.
  • The drug gained prominence after it was used to treat Trump when he was sick last year. The FDA has granted it emergency use for mild and moderate covid-19 patients.

Hot on the left

The AAPI Victory Fund is launching an operation to improve understanding of the nation’s fastest-growing electorate. “The top political organization representing Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders is forming a policy-focused arm in response to new engagement in their community following a year of racially motivated attacks, record voter turnout in the 2020 election and the killings last month of six Asian women in Atlanta,” Colby Itkowitz and Amy B Wang report. The PAC announced the creation of the new nonprofit group this morning, which is “aimed at developing a greater understanding of the complex and nuanced population that has long been excluded from conversations about issues such as racial justice, economic disparity and politics generally. …

“Part of the group’s mission will be to dispel the ‘model minority’ myth that persists around the Asian population that they are well educated and successful and thus don’t require the same attention as other marginalized groups,” our colleagues write. “You can’t understand the experience of Asian Americans through a single lens like aggregate income or educational achievement; instead, a more multifaceted understanding will help highlight areas that still remain quite challenging, like political representation,” said Janelle Wong, an AAPI Victory Fund board member and professor of Asian American studies at the University of Maryland.

Hot on the right

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) is questioning Biden and his media strategy. Citing this Politico story, Cornyn speculated that Biden's media strategy – which has so far included few television interviews and largely scripted tweets – raises the question of whether the president is in charge.

Sequences of coronavirus, visualized

The nation dramatically stepped up its surveillance for coronavirus variants in recent weeks, but experts say there’s much further to go if the country wants to stay ahead of new and potentially dangerous versions of the virus, Erin Cox and Jenna Portnoy report.

Today in Washington

Biden will join a virtual summit meant to address a shortage on semiconductors today at noon. He and Harris will meet with the bipartisan group of lawmakers to talk about the $2 trillion infrastructure and jobs plan at 1:45 p.m. 

In closing

John Oliver explains why America's long-term care needs fixing: