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Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley want to 'break up' MLB as punishment for protesting Georgia voting restrictions
Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Josh Hawley, R-Mo., and Mike Lee, R-Utah, introduced a bill that would end the MLB's antitrust exemption, which dates back to a 1922 Supreme Court decision, in response to its protest of the Georgia law.
The senators discussed the proposed change as a matter of fairness at a news conference on Tuesday, criticizing corporations for seeking "handouts" and "subsidies," even though all three of them voted to drastically slash corporate taxes and have backed numerous corporate subsidies they like. The trio made clear that the bill was in response to a corporate action they disagreed with.
"This past month we have seen the rise of the 'woke' corporation," Cruz said. "These woke corporations have decided to become the political enforcer for Democrats in Washington."
Cruz accused the companies of "spreading disinformation" about the law, which Republicans dubiously claim expands voting access, even though more than a dozen provisions will make it harder to vote and could allow Republican state lawmakers to subvert elections. Cruz himself has spread misinformation about voting in Colorado, where the MLB moved its All-Star Game, falsely arguing that the state's all-mail elections are more restrictive than the new Georgia rules that Democrats have lambasted as "Jim Crow in the 21st century."
Cruz, who along with Hawley was among the biggest backers of former President Donald Trump's false election claims that sparked the restrictive efforts in Georgia and dozens of other states, argued that the Georgia bill was in response to concerns about voter integrity, even though multiple recounts and audits have confirmed Trump's loss.
"Major League Baseball's decision is indefensible on the merits," he said. "Major League Baseball made a decision that the more than half of its fans that happen to be Republicans are now disfavored and that voter fraud is not a concern legislatures should focus on. That decision was harmful. It's going to hurt baseball."
Hawley, who has previously waded into antitrust legislation amid his ongoing feud with tech companies he accuses of censoring conservatives, said that the solution to corporations trying to "amass" political power is to "break them up."
"This is about preserving the ability of the democratic process to go forward," he said. "The fact that Major League Baseball would get together and punish a state because the elected representatives of that state and the elected governor of that state signed a law to preserve election integrity is unbelievable."
Hawley claimed that the MLB and other corporations that have criticized voter restrictions in Georgia and other states are doing "exactly what the railroad barons tried to do a century ago."
Major League Baseball is the only sports league not subject to federal antitrust laws and there's nothing new about lawmakers seeking to change that. At least a half-dozen efforts have tried and failed to overturn the exception. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., in 2019 called on Congress to "reconsider its antitrust exemption" in response to the league's decision to eliminate dozens of minor league baseball teams. But the senators' effort to cancel the MLB's antitrust exemption comes amid a growing GOP campaign against "cancel culture." It follows years of Republicans pushing to make it easier for corporations to influence politics. It also comes amid a nationwide Republican push to make it harder to vote after Trump lost an election that saw record turnout but zero evidence of any widespread fraud.
Georgia's law limits absentee voting and require a voter ID for mail-in ballots, restricts the use of drop boxes, bans Fulton County's mobile voting buses, makes it difficult to correct ballot mistakes, and makes it a crime to serve water or food to voters in long lines, although it does expand early voting in rural areas. It would also allow the Republican state legislature to replace the secretary of state, who pushed back against Trump's false claims, as head of the state election board and allow the board to take over local election offices, a move that appears aimed at Atlanta-area counties where Biden ran up the score in November. The New York Times identified more than 15 provisions that would make it harder to vote or give more power over elections to Republican lawmakers, though the original version of the bill also included a complete ban on no-excuse absentee voting and automatic voter registration and other provisions that would disproportionately impact voters of color.
MLB is hardly the only corporation protesting the law. Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines and Coca-Cola have come out against the law and nearly 200 companies signed a statement against state legislation "threatening to make voting more difficult." A coalition of more than 100 corporate leaders recently met on Zoom to discuss how to respond to the Georgia law and others proposed in states like Texas.
The criticism has led to backlash from Republican lawmakers, who have courted corporate support and funding for decades.
The Georgia House voted to strip a tax break from Delta, though that effort was shot down in the state Senate. A group of Republican state lawmakers called for Coca-Cola products to be removed from their state house offices.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who filibustered efforts to restrict corporate donations and led a lawsuit against the Federal Election Commission to remove those limits before backing the Citizens United lawsuit that allowed corporations to pour unlimited sums of cash into politics, warned corporations to "stay out of politics" in response to the criticism.
He walked those comments back a day later, saying, "I'm not talking about political contributions."
‘Rise of the woke corporation’: Cruz, Hawley, Lee file unconstitutional bill to punish MLB’s support of voting rights
U.S. Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX), Josh Hawley (R-MO), and Mike Lee (R-UT) have filed legislation to punish Major League Baseball after the organization representing America's favorite pastime pulled the All-Star Game out of Georgia in response to Governor Brian Kemp signing a highly-destructive anti-democratic voter suppression law.
"This past month, we have seen the rise of the woke corporation. We have seen the rise of big business enforcing a woke standard," Cruz told reporters, as NBC News reports. "That decision was harmful. It's going to hurt baseball. But it also underscores that there's no reason Major League Baseball should enjoy special subsidies — corporate welfare that no one else gets."
While MLB does benefit from a 99-year old Supreme Court ruling that protects the organization from competition, the three attorneys should know their legislation is unconstitutional for two reasons.
First, pulling the All-Star Game out of Georgia is free speech protected by the First Amendment: "Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech..."
Second, when the government targets a specific individual or entity for punishment or retribution, especially without a trial, that's illegal, and it's called a bill of attainder.
Vox's Ian Millhiser, a legal expert who has written several books on the U.S. Supreme Court, weighed in when Duncan made his threat:
Ah yes, a bill of attainder AND a First Amendment violation. Very nice. https://t.co/78MtwoEXKD
— Ian Millhiser (@imillhiser) April 2, 2021
It was Donald Trump who ensured Matt Gaetz could ignore 'puritanical grandstanding or moralistic preening': reporter
Vanity Fair reporter Abigail Tracy recalled the first time she sat with Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) in his office.
According to her tale, Gaetz reminisced about his first year in office and how, as a virtual nobody, he would stack up against people who have laundry lists of achievements. With a smirk of arrogance, he told her, "But we have managed to get it right since then."
What he meant, Tracy explained, is that he managed to build an identity by playing into the far-right of the GOP and putting interviews on cable news above his actual day job. She recalled the days when Gaetz was supporting former Gov. Jeb Bush (R-FL) and he was following around Sen. Jeff Flake (R-FL), who has now been shunned from the GOP.
He wiggled his way into the Trump world by claiming he was "inspired by [the Trump] movement and informed by it, and I view the Trump presidency not as a condition to be managed, but as an opportunity to be seized."
"My first in-person glimpse of the congressman was him applying concealer in front of a large mirror in his office. Later, in a greenroom at CPAC, he would express glee at a Dyson hairdryer, which he told his chief of staff, Jillian Lane Wyant, 'changed my life,'" Tracy also recalled of the Florida man.
But after a friend and GOP ally Joel Greenberg, the former Seminole County tax collector pleaded guilty to 33 federal counts, including sex trafficking, Gaetz finds himself with few friends.
"A number of threads have spun out since the first Times report: accusations on his character and behavior, including allegations that Gaetz showed other lawmakers nude photos on the House floor of women he said he slept with, and that Gaetz used websites such as Seeking Arrangement to connect with young women, coordinated by Greenberg," Tracy wrote.
Now Gaetz is flocking to cable channels in the hopes he won't be canceled. It's impossible to get canceled if you're on every channel," Gaetz wrote in his book Firebrand. But allegations of sex trafficking a minor is hard to come back from when so much evidence seems to be unearthed.
Oddly, she noted that it was Donald Trump who helped "bachelors" like Gaetz be himself.
"We've got a president now who doesn't care for puritanical grandstanding or moralistic preening. He is a lot more direct, even visceral, open, and realistic about his likes and dislikes, so overall, this is a good time to be a fun-loving politician instead of a stick-in-the-mud," Gaetz wrote in the book. "I have an active social life, and it's probably easier in the era of Trump. We've had 'perfect family man' presidents before, after all, and many of those men sold out our country, even if their wives were happy the whole time. If politicians' family lives aren't what really matter to the voters, maybe that's a good thing. I'm a representative, not a monk."
In the end, she said that she won't count Gaetz out yet, regardless of the charges he could face if allegations prove to be true. It was assumed that Gaetz would bounce from Capitol Hill to a comfortable job on a right-wing network. Instead, Gaetz confessed that he's gotten used to playing offense instead of defense while in office. That has certainly changed in recent weeks.
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