Inflation Hits The Corporate Shakedown Market

Inflation has hit the corporate extortion market, for sure. Recent studies estimate that corporate America has been shamed into spending between $83 and $340 billion on various racial causes including Black Lives Matter (BLM) and related entities since the massive (“mostly peaceful”) riots protesting the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers in 2020. BLM has made Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, who reigned supreme as kings of the corporate shakedown movement from the 1980s into the early 2000s, look like amateurs.

In its analysis of the BLM shakedown record, the Claremont Institute for the American Way of Life, compiled a lengthy and well-documented database of more than 400 companies that have made pledges and contributions to numerous entities and causes favored, if not demanded by BLM. The list is quite interesting in what it reveals about the spending priorities of major U.S. corporations and other organizations. For example:

  • The three major sports associations – the National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball, and the National Football League — together anted up $700 million. No wonder ticket prices to attend their events are so expensive.
  • Insurance companies are among the biggest spenders, with New York Life Insurance alone spending $1 billion, and Northwestern Mutual and State Farm each throwing in a cool $100 million.
  • Uber, a company that has yet to turn a profit, is down for $61.0 million.
  • Not surprisingly, Starbucks coffee is in the elite category of billion-plus pledgers, with more than $1.6 billion thrown into the pot.
  • Tik Tok, much in the news these days, pledged $4.0 million to the cause.
  • Silicon Valley Bank, which just enjoyed a taxpayer-funded bailout and is in the process of being bought by other banks, dedicated a whopping $70,650,000 to the BLM cause.
  • Wayfair, also a company having trouble making ends meet, has gifted $30 million.
  • Peloton Interactive, which has suffered a series of financial hits in recent years, nonetheless found $20.5 million lying around to donate.
  • Another company appearing on recent lists of financially troubled corporations, Bed Bath & Beyond, nonetheless decided to donate $1.0 million.
  • While the usual liberal suspects, such as Silicon Valley tech companies, media giants, and social media darlings are in the billion dollar-plus range, even “smaller” companies considered far less liberal in their corporate culture, appear on the shakedown list. This includes companies such as Chick-fil-A ($6.2 million), Caterpillar ($1.0 million), and AFLAC ($25.0 million). Even Tractor Supply slipped in $125,000. These illustrate the power of the racial guilt movement spearheaded by BLM.
  • Banks, ever sensitive to charges of “racial redlining” and other indictments by government and non-government entities as well, appear throughout the list, with JP Morgan Chase & Co. kicking in more than $30 billion and Bank of America devoting some $18 billion of its depositors’ and investors’ monies to the cause.
  • Major defense contractors are not absent from the list, with Boeing weighing in at a robust $15.6 million and Northrop Grumman a relatively paltry $2.0 million.
  • The country’s two largest soft drink producers, Coca-Cola and Pepsi, of course are on the list, but surprisingly the latter has pledged ten times as much as its Atlanta-based rival — $400 million vs. $40 million.
  • One of the country’s most dyed-in-the-wool liberal organizations – Planned Parenthood – got off lightly by tossing in a mere $160,000.

Unlike the earlier phase of the corporate shakedown movement, focused largely if not solely on racial “equity,” and led in the 1990s and early 2000s by the Reverends Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, today’s operatives have many more arrows in their quiver. The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) compiles and publishes annually a “Corporate Equality Index” to rate corporations on a range of criteria, including LGBTQ factors.

Shaking down corporations has itself become Big Business. Organizations like BLM and its earlier and smaller cousin, the Rainbow Coalition, obviously have found it is much easier to make massive sums of money in this way than the more traditional route of hard work and producing a product in the competitive marketplace. In this regard, racial shakedown players reflect what a recent Wall Street Journal-NORC poll found: today only 14% of Americans value hard work. Clearly, BLM is not part of that 14%.

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Bob Barr is a former Congressman who represented the citizens of Georgia’s 7th Congressional District in the US House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003. Bob heads Liberty Guard, a non-profit and non-partisan organization dedicated to protecting individual liberty.