Blue Cross Blue Shield slammed for donating to Michigan lawmakers who push election lies, voting restrictions

Michigan’s largest health insurer continues to contribute heavily to far right Republicans

click to enlarge Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan continues to donate to far right Republican lawmakers. - Shutterstock.com
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Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan continues to donate to far right Republican lawmakers.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan has come under fire for continuing to donate to the campaigns of lawmakers who are pushing voting restrictions and lies about widespread election fraud.

The Defend Black Voters Coalition identified $329,000 in contributions from BCBSM to politicians who have pushed “Jim Crow-style voter suppression in Michigan” since 2016. During the same period, BCBSM donated $355,000 to the party committees supporting these lawmakers. The donations don’t include money sent to leadership PACs and administrative funds.

The analysis found that BCBSM is the “largest corporate contributor to the legislators pushing extreme legislation that could disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters of color.”

In April 2021, the health insurance giant was among three dozen major Michigan-based employers that called on lawmakers to stop pushing for voting restrictions.

“Government must avoid actions that reduce participation in elections — particularly among historically disenfranchised communities, persons with disabilities, older adults, racial minorities and low-income voters,” the employers said in a statement.

In a letter to BCBSM Chief Executive Officer Daniel J. Leopp this week, Ann Arbor Mayor Christopher Taylor assailed Michigan’s largest health insurer for reneging on its pledge.

“I have a difficult time understanding how you can lead an organization that provides services to government organizations like the City of Ann Arbor, sign a pledge that further supports the foundational democratic principles upon which government rests, and then permit BCBSM to contribute to legislators and candidates who act with intentionality to undermine and violate those principles,” Taylor wrote.

“The support of Big Lie, disenfranchising legislators is at odds with Ann Arbor (and, frankly, American) values of democracy and harmful of employee and community health, in light of the empirical connection between a community’s access to the vote and a range of health outcomes,” Taylor added.

On Tuesday, the Wayne County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a resolution that calls on companies that do business with the county to exercise responsible corporate citizenship by supporting fair, free and accessible elections.

Wayne County Commissioner Jonathan Kinloch, who introduced the resolution, said some lawmakers are trying to make it more difficult for Black and working-class voters in Detroit to vote.

“I’m deeply troubled that taxpayer money from my constituents is being used to attack our freedom to vote and I’m excited to continue to work with my fellow commissioners to ensure that Blue Cross aligns its actions with the values of Wayne County and their own professed values,” Kinloch said. “And let me be clear that this doesn’t just affect my constituents. Michigan is a perennial swing state with the national outcome following the Michigan outcome in 9 of the last 11 presidential elections. Our democracy depends on all of us, including Black Michiganders, being able to show up to the polls. If we let profits win over people, mark my words, Trump will be back in two short years.”

Metro Times took a closer look at the Michigan lawmakers who have received donations from BCBSM.

Nine of them serve on the state House and signed a letter asking then-Vice President Mike Pence to delay certifying the results of the 2020 election in a last-minute attempt to overturn the election. They received more than $34,000 from BCBSM.

Some of the biggest donations from the health insurance giant went to four state lawmakers who tried to enter the state Capitol building so a group of Republicans could fraudulently cast their electoral college votes for then-President Donald Trump. Those fake electors are now under federal investigation.

In addition, BCBSM donated tens of thousands of dollars to state Republicans who signed a letter demanding a full forensic audit of the 2020 election, falsely claiming there were “numerous irregularities.”

BCBSM also sent tens of thousands of dollars to 11 Republican House lawmakers who urged Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel last month to investigate and “bring charges if credible evidence is found” stemming from a widely denounced propaganda film, “2000 Mules,” by conservative provocateur Dinesh D’Souza.

Since the 2020 presidential election, the Republican-led state House and Senate have introduced dozens of bills that would restrict voting access in Michigan. BCBSM donated to many of those lawmakers.

Voting rights advocates joined the call for BCBSM and other employers to stop financially supporting candidates who are harming the democratic process by pushing lies and restrictive legislation.

"Every American, both persons and institutions of conscience, must be unequivocal and on one accord in our disdain of sinister efforts to weaken our nation through voter suppression bills,” Bryan Barnhill, a member of the Wayne State University Board of Governors, said in a statement. “Now, more than ever, is the time that we elevate our nation’s interest over our own individual and corporate ones. Now is the time to harmonize our actions with our values. As individuals, this means organizing against those who support anti-democratic legislation. As corporations, this means not supporting politicians who betray our nation’s most cherished principles. I call on every person and institution to do the same.”

Pastor Jeffery Harrold, of New Beginnings Community Church of Washtenaw County, added, "Our freedom to vote and therefore our democracy is under attack again and we're raising the alarm. This time, communities are fighting back by going after the funders of the attack. We appreciate the support of Ann Arbor Mayor Christopher Taylor and for the work of the Defend the Black Voters Coalitions. And with progressive champions like Mayor Taylor at our back, we're going to win. Justice is going to win.”

Progress Michigan, a progressive nonprofit, called on BCBSM to stop funding “extremists lawmakers.”

"Blue Cross Blue Shield should answer for this hypocrisy,” Lonnie Scott, executive director of Progress Michigan, said. “The right to choose our own leaders is paramount and BCBSM, along with other wealthy interests who claim to support voting rights, are bankrolling lawmakers who do not care about free and fair elections and in some cases have actively tried to overturn votes of the people. It's time for BCBSM to put their money where their mouth is and stop funding extremist lawmakers who are trying to restrict our freedom to vote.”

BCBSM declined to say why it's continuing to donate to the lawmakers.

"We have received the mayor’s letter and responded, and prefer to deal with his concerns directly and not through news media stories," BCBSM said in a statement.

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