GEORGIA – Coca-Cola CEO James Quincey said the company has always been against legislation in Georgia that restricts voter access, but is choosing to speak up publicly about it after the bill passed.
“We always opposed this legislation,” Quincey told CNBC’s Sara Eisen on Wednesday’s “Power Lunch.”
He added that the company has a long track record in Georgia, where it is based, of working with legislators and lobbying for itself or with alliances and achieving what it wants while working in private.
Coke is among the many companies that are now publicly taking a stance after Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed a bill into law that overhauls the state’s elections, which opponents say disproportionately disenfranchises people of color. Civil rights groups have been critical of the beverage giant for not vocally opposing the law and have asked consumers to boycott the company’s products until it speaks up more forcefully.
“Now that it’s passed, we’re coming out more publicly,” Quincey said.
He said that the company had paused political donations through its political action committee before the bill was proposed. In the past, the company has given political donations to some of the bill’s sponsors.
In the interview, Quincey used stronger language than a previous statement from Coke to oppose the law, calling it “wrong” and saying it needs to change. On Monday, Alfredo Rivera, president of Cokes North American operating unit, said in a statement that the company is disappointed in the outcome but doesn’t see this as the final chapter. Rivera also said that Coke had joined with other Georgia businesses earlier this year to let state legislators know that they opposed measures to restrict voter access. Last year, Coke introduced its first-ever company holiday for Election Day.
Merck CEO Ken Frazier and former American Express CEO Ken Chenault, both of whom are Black, are asking corporate leaders to oppose the law. Other companies that have released statements about the law include Delta Air Lines, which was also facing calls for a boycott, and BlackRock.