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Ted Cruz’s Accidental Confession

His anti-woke-CEOs rant? It inadvertently reveals a cynical GOP calculation.
April 30, 2021
Ted Cruz’s Accidental Confession
Sen. Cruz, R-Texas, conducts a news conference outside the Capitol on Thursday, April 29, 2021. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-MAGA), has announced in the pages of the Wall Street Journal that he is taking a stand on principle. He will no longer accept corporate donations. Mr. Constitutional Conservative was moved to this extremity by what he calls the “watch-me-woke-it-up” CEOs who have “parroted the radical left’s talking points” about the Georgia election law.

Ah yes, those radical leftists in the C suites at Coca-Cola and Merck.

Cruz is irate that Coca-Cola CEO James Quincey said he opposes any law that would “diminish or deter access to voting.” Which provisions, Cruz huffed, “the ones that allow several forms of identification, which the state provides free of charge, to request or cast a ballot? Or the measures that expand the number of days of early voting?” No, the ones that restrict the number of dropboxes, limit the time in which an absentee ballot must be requested,  impose stricter ID requirements for absentee ballots, and permit the Republican-controlled legislature to suspend county election officials, inter alia.

Look, the Georgia law is an awkward mash-up of tighter and looser voting rules, and critics on both sides can find objectionable provisions. But the main thing is that the law is a ratification of a lie—that the 2020 election was marred by fraud. That is the law’s premise, and as such, it contributes to undermining trust in American democracy.

Merck’s CEO got crosswise with Cruz for saying that “Georgia is the leading edge of a movement all around this country to restrict voting access.” There’s a word for that—true. Republicans have apparently decided that rather than persuade voters to choose them, they will choose the voters.

After hyperventilating about these anodyne comments from Coke and Merck, Cruz declares that he’s done with these people.

This is the point in the drama when Republicans usually shrug their shoulders, call these companies “job creators,” and start to cut their taxes. Not this time. This time, we won’t look the other way on Coca-Cola’s $12 billion in back taxes owed. This time, when Major League Baseball lobbies to preserve its multibillion-dollar antitrust exception, we’ll say no thank you. This time, when Boeing asks for billions in corporate welfare, we’ll simply let the Export-Import Bank expire.

It’s worth pausing on this comment, because of the cynicism it reveals. Cruz is saying that, all this time when Republicans were claiming that corporations were “job creators,” it was really just code for “they send me cash.” And it seems we are to conclude that Republicans knew all about Coke owing back taxes and winked at it in the name of political compatibility and campaign contributions. Remember all those GOP defenses of the Export-Import Bank as a pillar of U.S. competitiveness when libertarians and good-government types called for its abolition? Cruz is now telling the world that it was a sham. It was all a quid pro quo.

What a great look.

Cruz has gone further, piously announcing that while, in the past, he received $2.6 million in donations from corporate political action committees, “starting today, I no longer accept money from any corporate PAC. . . . Corporations that flagrantly misrepresent efforts to protect our elections need to be called out, singled out and cut off.”

And they say character is a thing of the past! Of course, eschewing corporate PAC contributions is not the same thing as rejecting all corporate contributions. And Cruz gets more from the oil and gas, legal, and real-estate interests than from PACS.

Besides, Republicans are discovering that they can raise more in small donations than from the big guys anyway. A month ago, Rep. Jim Banks of the Republican Study Committee penned a memo to Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy arguing that “things have changed.” Whereas in 2012 Wall Street donated $18 million to Mitt Romney and only $6 million to Barack Obama, in 2020 Wall Street donated four times as much to Biden as Trump. Banks wrote that his objections to the 2020 election results led to his being “blacklisted” by some major corporations, including Eli Lilly. So he turned to small donors and “regained every penny.”

When candidates beat the bushes for donations from small donors, they do it by ginning up outrage. It’s been dubbed “fundraging.” That’s what Cruz is about. We’re used to that from him. What is new is his inadvertent confession of florid, flagrant cynicism.

Mona Charen

Mona Charen is Policy Editor of The Bulwark, a nationally syndicated columnist, and host of The Bulwark’s Beg to Differ podcast. She can be reached at [email protected].