Utah Sen. Mike Lee says Delta, Coca-Cola should apologize for criticizing new GOP Georgia election law

The conservative Republican said the companies’ statements are “offensive” and “unseemly.”

(Ken Cedeno | Pool via AP) Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, photographed in January, is scolding Delta Air Lines and Coca-Cola for criticizing Georgia’s new election law as voter suppression.

Utah Sen. Mike Lee, who previously said HR1, the voting-rights law passed by the Democratically controlled U.S. House was “written by the devil himself,” now is scolding Delta Air Lines and Coca-Cola for criticizing Georgia’s new election law as voter suppression.

“I find that kind of intrusion unseemly and inappropriate,” Lee said of the corporate statements in an interview Wednesday with KNRS radio talk-show host Rod Arquette. “It’s wildly partisan what they’re doing.”

Lee, who acknowledged he hadn’t read the Georgia law, dismissed any claims of voter-rights restrictions.

“I can’t fathom a legitimate, valid basis for Coca-Cola, for Delta or any of these companies to come out and say you can’t do this.”

Lee said the corporate criticism “is a blatantly partisan move — and this, by the way, from a company that has just received many tens of billions of dollars in bailout money. This is really, really offensive, and I think they should both issue an apology to the voters of Georgia.”

Delta reportedly received about $8 billion in relief funding previously and stands to get another $2.5 billion from the $1.9 trillion package. Coca-Cola received about $6.5 billion, according to The Washington Post.

Other major U.S. corporations are joining the chorus of criticism against the Georgia law. Microsoft President Brad Smith, who recently announced a major expansion of the company in Atlanta, said some of its provisions “needlessly and unfairly make it more difficult for people to vote.”

On Friday, Major League Baseball decided to move the All-Star Game out of Atlanta to protest the new voting law.

“Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans,” Commissioner Rob Manfred said, “and opposes restrictions to the ballot box.”

It wasn’t long after the MLB decision was announced that Lee joined other Republican critics in questioning the baseball’s antitrust protections.

“Why does @MLB still have antitrust immunity?” he asked in a tweet Friday afternoon. “It’s time for the federal government to stop granting special privileges to specific, favored corporations — especially those that punish their political opponents.”

Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., tweeted that he has directed his staff to begin drafting legislation to remove baseball’s immunity “in light of @MLB’s stance to undermine election integrity laws.”

But what started out as a few corporations and executives criticizing Georgia’s new law as undermining election accessibility and rights has now turned into a flood of opposition.

Delta CEO Ed Bastian said in a memo to employees Wednesday that the new Georgia law — which critics say restricts voting rights — was “unacceptable” and “based on a lie” of widespread election fraud, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. The CEO of Coca-Cola also declared the law “unacceptable.”

The two companies are headquartered in Atlanta and are among Georgia’s largest corporations. Delta Air Lines also is a significant employer in Utah and is the dominant carrier operating out of the Salt Lake City International Airport.

Bastian said in his memo that the new law “is unacceptable and does not match Delta’s values.

“The right to vote is sacred,” he continued. “It is fundamental to our democracy and those rights not only need to be protected, but easily facilitated in a safe and secure manner.”

After earlier saying he had worked with legislators to remove some of the bill’s worst provisions and suggesting he could live with the final law, Bastian’s latest harsher judgment came after discussions with members of the Black community — not to mention growing threats of boycotts.

“It’s evident that the bill includes provisions that will make it harder for many underrepresented voters, particularly Black voters, to exercise their constitutional right to elect their representatives,” Bastian said in the memo. “That is wrong.”

Here are some of the provisions of the law that critics say will discourage or disenfranchise voters:

While the new law requires a by-mail ballot drop box in every county, it limits the number of drop boxes allowed, as well as the hours they are in operation. It prohibits sending by-mail ballot applications automatically to registered voters — they must be requested. And it shortens the period such requests can be made.

It also tightens ID requirements for casting an absentee ballot, and it prohibits anyone from giving food or drink to a voter waiting in line at a polling place.