Meet the Fortune 500 Companies Funding the Political Resegregation of America

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This post first appeared at Mother Jones.

North Carolina's heavily gerrymandered 12th congressional district. (Photo: Mother Jones)

North Carolina’s heavily gerrymandered 12th Congressional District. (Photo: Mother Jones)

Over the past four to five years, the United States has been resegregated — politically. In states where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans and presidential races can be nail-biters, skillful Republican operatives have mounted racially-minded gerrymandering efforts — the redrawing of congressional and state legislative districts — that have led to congressional delegations stacked with GOP members and yielded Republican majorities in the state legislatures.

In North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Ohio, to name just three, GOPers have recast state and congressional districts to consolidate black voters into what the political pros call “majority-minority districts” to diminish the influence of these voters. North Carolina is an especially glaring example: GOP-redistricting after the 2010 elections led to half the state’s black population — 1.1 million people — being corralled into one-fifth of the state legislative and congressional districts. “The districts here take us back to a day of segregation that most of us thought we’d moved away from,” State Sen. Dan Blue Jr., who was previously North Carolina’s first black House speaker, told The Nation in 2012.

A major driving force behind this political resegregation is the Republican State Leadership Committee, a deep-pocketed yet under-the-radar group that calls itself the “lead Republican redistricting organization.” The RSLC is funded largely by Fortune 500 corporations, including Reynolds AmericanLas Vegas Sands, WalmartDevon EnergyCitigroupAT&TPfizerAltria GroupHoneywell InternationalHewlett-Packard. Other heavyweight donors not on the Fortune 500 list include Koch Industries, Blue Cross Blue Shield and the US Chamber of Commerce. At the same time these big-name firms underwrite the RSLC’s efforts to dilute the power of black voters, many of them preach the values of diversity and inclusion on their websites and in corporate reports.

As part of its Redistricting Majority Project — which, tellingly, is nicknamed REDMAP — the RSLC, starting in 2010, poured tens of millions of dollars into legislative races around the country to elect new GOP majorities. Next it provided money and expertise to state officials redrawing political boundary lines to favor the Republican Party — and to shrink the clout of blacks, Hispanics and other traditionally Democratic voters. Unlike its Democratic equivalent, the RSLC has vast sums at its disposal, spending $30 million during the 2010 elections, $40 million in 2012 and $22 million in 2014.

Here is a partial list of RSLC donors — how much they donated to the group in the past four years and what they each have had to say about their own efforts to foster diversity. (All the companies on this list did not respond to requests for comment except for Altria Group, Citigroup and Reynolds American, which declined to comment.)

Altria Group
“[W]e foster diversity and inclusion among our workforce, consistent with our leadership responsibilities and core values.” (Source)

“AT&T’s 134-year history of innovation is a story about people from all walks of life and all kinds of backgrounds coming together to improve the human condition. It is our diversity, coupled with an inclusive culture that welcomes all points of view, which makes us who we are: a great place to work, a desired business partner and a committed member of the communities we serve.” (Source)

Blue Cross/Blue Shield
“Let’s get there together — with one perspective we can go far, with many perspectives we can move beyond all limits. Join an organization that values diversity.” (Source)

“We see diversity as a source of strength.” (Source)

“We recognize, celebrate and support diversity and inclusion, which is at the very heart of our culture.” (Source)

Devon Energy
“Devon believes diversity, the collective mixture of similarities and differences of our employees, is a valued asset.” (Source)

Reynolds American
“Reynolds American and its operating companies have long recognized, valued and enjoyed the many benefits that diversity brings to both our employees and our businesses. Our commitment to diversity is a strong demonstration of the core values that our companies share.” (Source)

US Chamber of Commerce
“Diversity and inclusion programs can provide valuable resources to recruit and retain a strong employee base that will generate novel ideas.” (Source)

“Diversity has been at the core of our culture since Sam Walton opened our doors in 1962…We can only help our associates, customers and partners live better if we really know them. And that means understanding and respecting differences and being inclusive of all people.” (Source)

Andy Kroll is Mother Jones' dark money reporter, based in the Washington, DC bureau. His work has also appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The Detroit News, Salon and TomDispatch, where he's an associate editor. Follow him on Twitter: @AndyKroll.
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