The Race for Most Ignorant CEO in America

Levi Strauss CEO Chip Bergh is winning the race for the most ignorant CEO in America. But many other corporate leaders aren’t far behind him.

Davis Soderberg

Davis Soderberg

Bergh thinks Georgia’s new voting law, and other voting-integrity efforts across the nation, are racist. But he can’t explain what’s racist about them.

Last month, Bergh attacked the Georgia legislation, calling it “racist” and “a significant step backwards for us in the United States.” Since he didn’t identify any specific provisions of the law that merited this incredibly serious charge, I attendedthe virtual Levi Strauss annual shareholder meeting and asked him about it.

My question to Bergh focused in part on the central feature of the law, voter identification: “Can you, Mr. Bergh, explain specifically how requiring voters to show ID in order to avoid fraud is racist, and also your timeline for ending all Levi-Strauss requests for ID from job candidates, employees, visitors to your facilities, and attendees at your annual shareholder meetings, in conformance with your race-based claims?”

Bergh repeated the notion that the legislation was racist, but, again, didn’t explain how. In fact, the only specific thing he mentioned was to concede (I think) that requiring voter ID, which is provided for free in Georgia, is not racist. But that leads to the question: If not the ID, then which provision in the legislation does facilitate racism and voter suppression? This is an immensely important detail that Bergh and other woke CEOs continue to leave out.

Our team at the Free Enterprise Project of the National Center for Public Policy Research has asked similar questions to other corporations (Coca-Cola, Bank of America, and Pfizer in particular) that had also initially opposed the law. All three of these corporations backed down when we questioned them.

However, all three of them, as well as hundreds of other corporations, have been foolish by preemptively demonizing the law as racist and unjust while simultaneously failing to pinpoint specific details, provisions, or clauses within the law that would back up these claims and make them legitimate.

I can’t find any legitimate grounds for their solemn pronouncements. It is easy to refute the many claims that leftists have used to label Georgia’s election integrity law as “Jim Crow on steroids” or “Jim Crow 2.0.”

The first is that the legislation greatly reduces the number of drop boxes. Yet, drop boxes in 2020 were a temporary measure implemented to protect voters during the COVID-19 pandemic. This law, however, will for the first time permanently authorize the use of drop boxes in Georgia. The COVID-19 emergency drop box authorization would have expired, removing boxes altogether, if this provision hadn’t been added to the new law.

The next misconception about the Georgia law is that it deprives voters of food and water while in line at voting locations. In actuality, the law restricts partisan actors from giving voters money, gifts, food, or water within 150 feet of a polling place. It simply forbids bribing voters in line. This isn’t a radical idea. There are no provisions outlawing voters from bringing their own food or water, asking a friend to bring some, or even receiving them from nonpartisan poll workers while standing in line.

Additionally, the Left has continued to fib about decreasing hours of operations at polling places. Even President Joe Biden joined in on this lie, claiming that the law forces polling places to close at 5 p.m. “so working people can’t cast their vote after their shift is over.” The law sets 5 p.m. as the earliest time a polling center can close, but it allows polling places to be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. during early voting, which would extend voting times for some Georgian counties, while keeping Election Day hours the same. The law also expands early voting days to include Saturdays, while making Sundays optional. If anything, voting hours increase under the new law.

Lastly, and arguably the most ridiculous claim of all, is that requiring a voter to show ID to cast a ballot is “racist.” Critics have long argued that voter ID requirements disproportionately target low-income communities and people of color. How? Does the Left think voters of certain demographics aren’t capable of obtaining an ID? Showing an ID to vote has nothing to do with race, and, in fact, a recent Rasmussen survey showed that likely U.S. voters, including racial minorities, heavily support an ID requirement.

Chip Bergh and his band of CEO race-baiters don’t appear to know what they’re talking about. Maybe they should start acting like nonpartisan business leaders who are focused solely on the success of their companies, about which they presumably know something. Corporate managers are paid to be successful at selling jeans and bubbly dark soda, not to understand legislative matters. Shareholders are sick of their incoherent political interference.

Davis Soderberg is an associate for the Free Enterprise Project at the National Center for Public Policy Research. This was first published by the Washington Examiner.

The National Center for Public Policy Research is a communications and research foundation supportive of a strong national defense and dedicated to providing free market solutions to today’s public policy problems. We believe that the principles of a free market, individual liberty and personal responsibility provide the greatest hope for meeting the challenges facing America in the 21st century.