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New Business-Led Pledge Calls on U.S. Political Candidates to Support Election Integrity

A new business-led pledge may test the limits of corporate backing for lawmakers who fail to support election integrity. Signed by top U.S. executives, the Federal Candidate Pledge to Respect Elections calls on candidates to commit to defend voting rights and a peaceful transfer of power.
By Tina Casey
person registering to vote — new business pledge calls on US candidates to support free and fair elections

As the U.S. heads to the polls for presidential and legislative elections this fall, a bipartisan group of business leaders is calling on candidates to commit to defend the basic rights to vote freely. (Image: Sora Shimazaki/Pexels)

A new business-led pledge may test the limits of corporate backing for lawmakers who fail to support election integrity, including former U.S. President Donald Trump. The new pledge was released last week under the umbrella of the Leadership Now Project, a bipartisan nonprofit organization that advocates for American democracy.

Called the Federal Candidate Pledge to Respect Elections, the document calls on candidates for president and other federal offices to uphold the basic democratic guarantee of free and fair elections. The pledge cites six specific commitments for candidates, including respect for individual voting rights, ensuring the safety of election officials and, above all, supporting the peaceful transfer of power.

More than 125 business leaders co-signed by the time of the announcement on June 26, including LinkedIn Co-Founder Reid Hoffman. "As we prepare for the general election, it is critical that candidates reinforce confidence in our democratic processes, as election instability threatens business operations and economic stability," Hoffman said in a statement.

Other signatories include “senior executives in tech, finance, consumer products, and other industries from 23 states, including swing states like Wisconsin and Arizona, which are experiencing unprecedented threats to election administrators,” according to Leadership Now. 

A litmus test for candidates (and business leaders)

Leadership Now sent the Respect Elections Pledge to both major-party candidates for president and others running for federal office in 2024. First and foremost, though, the pledge is a test for other business leaders. It sets the bar of democratic principles at a fundamental level that everyone with even a passing knowledge of American history should be able to endorse.

Simple as it is, the test will be a difficult one for business leaders who continue to provide financial support to Trump and other Republican office holders linked to one of the most anti-democratic events in American history, the attempt to force a second Trump term by a violent overthrow of the U.S. government on January 6, 2021.

That attempt failed, but the work of undermining trust in elections continued, aided by the financial support of prominent businesses. On June 4, for example, the nonprofit organization Center for Responsibility and Ethics in Congress catalogued 1,796 corporations and industry groups that continue to provide financial support to members of Congress linked to anti-democratic actions including the failed insurrection. The independent newsletter Popular Information also tracks corporate support for “election deniers,” totaling more than $23 million in donations from some of America's largest companies since January 6, 2021.

The business case for democracy

Trump’s ability to attract allies in the business and inherited wealth communities was on full display in recent weeks, including a high-profile appearance at the influential organization Business Roundtable and a $50 million commitment from the mega-donor Timothy Mellon. “Wall Street executives and business leaders, after backing many of Trump’s primary rivals, have slowly warmed to him since he clinched the nomination in March," political correspondent Sara Dorn reported for Forbes last month. 

In an email message shared with media on June 26, Leadership Now insisted most CEOs and other executives do not share that opinion. The majority view, the organization argues, is one that recognizes the symbiotic relationship between a healthy democracy and a thriving economy.

Noting that “some CEOs endorsing Trump, like Blackstone’s Stephen Schwarzman, has given the appearance that business is rallying behind the former president en masse,” Leadership Now emphasized that the Respect Elections pledge “underscores that many business leaders recognize the importance of safeguarding our elections to support the integrity of our economic environment.”

On its website, Leadership Now further draws out the relationship between democracy, private enterprise and corporate social responsibility, stating that “a framework of accountable and sturdy democratic institutions” is the foundation for businesses to “thrive, innovate and contribute to societal well-being.”

Pledges are a dime a dozen these days, but Leadership Now has backed up its words with action. The organization filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Court election interference case Donald J. Trump v. United States of America to hammer home the point that, in a democracy, everyone is accountable to the law.

“For over 230 years, the American business community has relied upon our founding governmental principle that no one is above the law as the essential guarantor of business investments and expectations,” explains Daniella Ballou-Aares, CEO of Leadership Now.

The U.S. Supreme Court handed down its decision this week, extending unprecedented immunity from prosecution to U.S. presidents and passing the case back to the trial judge to determine if Trump's actions in particular are immune. 

Climate impacts may compel more leaders to weigh in

Overlaying the democratic and economic risks noted by Leadership Now is the looming climate crisis. Advocates warn that Trump’s “Project 2025” plan, a document produced by the conservative organization Heritage Foundation, aims to roll back the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act along with other federal climate action steps.

"Repealing the law has become an obsession among many conservatives, including the authors of the Heritage Foundation’s Project 2025, widely seen as a far-right road map for the early days of a second Trump administration,” James Temple, senior editor for energy at the MIT Technology Review, reported earlier this year

Far-right agenda aside, climate risks are beginning to cross party lines as a rising series of heat waves, wildfires and destructive storms sweeps across the United States, leading to crippling insurance costs for homeowners and businesses alike.

When risk talks, people tend to listen. Whether or not business leaders listen hard enough remains to be seen. Nevertheless, on the heels of the first presidential debate, Leadership Now plans to collect more signatures from business leaders and commitments from political candidates into the weeks leading up to Election Day, putting more pressure on candidates — and the business community — to defend fair elections and a peaceful transfer of power. 

Tina Casey headshot

Tina writes frequently for TriplePundit and other websites, with a focus on military, government and corporate sustainability, clean tech research and emerging energy technologies. She is a former Deputy Director of Public Affairs of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, and author of books and articles on recycling and other conservation themes.

Read more stories by Tina Casey