87th LegislatureState HouseState Senate$2 Billion in Texas Subsidies Have Gone to Companies Opposing ‘Discriminatory’ Election Reforms

Election reform proposals in the Texas legislature came under fire during the country-wide debate over Georgia's new election laws.
April 21, 2021
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Corporations that have criticized election reform — including Apple, American Airlines, and Uber — have received over $2 billion in Texas public dollars collectively. 

The information was compiled by the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF), a think-tank and supporter of Texas’ election reform legislation.

That total is likely even higher due to undisclosed subsidy amounts for multiple companies.

Most of the public funds come from state and local subsidies, with the single biggest beneficiary being Berkshire Hathaway, run by Warren Buffett, which has pulled in $802 million for its subsidiary Nebraska Furniture Mart.

Along with some of America’s largest corporations, Buffett in his own individual capacity signed on to an April letter critical of various election reform proposals across the country.

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“We all should feel a responsibility to defend the right to vote and oppose any discriminatory legislation or measures that restrict or prevent any eligible voter from having an equal and fair opportunity to cast a ballot,” the letter read.

In response to an inquiry, an assistant to Buffett told The Texan that he did not criticize any specific election legislation and hasn’t read individual laws in any of the states.

Asked if the Berkshire Hathaway subsidiary plans on declining further public funds should the proposed laws pass, the assistant pointed to a principle in which Buffett believes, quoted in part below:

“For American democracy to work for any of us, we must ensure the right to vote for all of us. We all should feel a responsibility to defend the right to vote and to oppose any discriminatory legislation or measures that restrict or prevent any eligible voter from having an equal and fair opportunity to cast a ballot. Voting is the lifeblood of our democracy and we call upon all Americans to join us in taking a nonpartisan stand for this most basic and fundamental right of all Americans.”

Buffett, his assistant noted, does not speak for Berkshire Hathaway’s shareholders on political matters.

Asked whether the letter itself was related in any way to the political context surrounding its release, Buffett’s assistant said the signers were assured it was not directed at any legislation in particular.

ExxonMobil is the second-highest recipient of public dollars with $533 million followed by Amazon receiving $287 million from taxpayers.

Neither company responded to inquiries for this story.

Brian Philips, a spokesman for TPPF, told The Texan, “Texans overwhelmingly support securing our elections and the reforms that the state legislature is now addressing. And these companies are on the other side, vocally working to undermine basic individual rights and confidence in our election results.”

“Through subsidies, Texans’ generosity directly benefits these businesses. In the interest of full transparency, Texans should be aware of this in case they’d like to impress upon their state representatives to reconsider this arrangement.”

Stemming from similar legislation that passed in Georgia, Texas’ two elections reform bills Senate Bill (SB) 7 and House Bill (HB) 6 received a cold shoulder from many corporate boardrooms.

Texas-based American Airlines opened the floodgates when it first criticized the legislature’s proposals, stating, “Any legislation dealing with how elections are conducted must ensure ballot integrity and security while making it easier to vote, not harder.”

This prompted a pointed response by Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, prodding the company to “read the damn bill.”

Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) asked for companies to “point to me where in that bill they see voter suppression.”

In a statement on the findings provided to The Texan, Patrick said, “The strength of the Texas economy is built on conservative principles of low taxes, reasonable regulation, and fair and predictable courts, all of which allow businesses to expand and create jobs for Texas’ growing population.”

“Secure elections are a critical component of that winning economic formula. It is offensive to most Texans that these businesses and corporations don’t understand that they are criticizing the conservative government whose policies have made it possible for them to thrive.”

Democrats across the state have decried the legislation as “voter suppression” along with similar charges across the country. That kind of politically charged rhetoric was not part of the corporations’ letter.

Author of SB 7 state Sen. Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola) told The Texan, “Other than press releases with no specific criticisms of the bill, most of these corporations have not even attempted to participate in the legislative process. They didn’t show up to testify, nor did they submit written testimony stating a position. Meanwhile, countless Texans have shared their concerns that their votes be counted fairly and accurately.”

“This PR stunt just exposes how tone-deaf these corporations are to the concerns of the people of Texas. If these corporations are so offended by Texas policies, they could demonstrate their wokeness by returning the $2 billion dollars of subsidies they have received from the Texas taxpayers.”

Companies benefit from public funds in multiple ways such as through local property tax abatements, cash awards like through the Texas Enterprise Fund (TEF), or other avenues.

The TEF is an economic development incentive program meant to attract businesses to Texas. Since its 2005 inception, the program has doled out over $677 million in cash awards in exchange for $34 billion in promised investment.

Beneficiaries of TEF money since 2018 who’ve criticized the election legislation include Apple with $25 million, Uber with $24 million, Texas Instruments with $5.1 million, and Microsoft with $4.8 million.

SB 7 passed the Senate on April 1 and has since been referred to the House Elections Committee while HB 6 was reported favorably by the committee on April 8 but has not yet been scheduled to be heard on the floor of the House.

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Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson is an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.