The giant corporations that backed the Republican attorney general who just got her abortion case before the Supreme Court can’t say they didn’t see it coming.
In January 2018, Right Wing Watch reported that national anti-abortion groups had a plan to kill Roe v. Wade, the landmark reproductive rights ruling. The plan involved Mississippi.
According to the report by Right Wing Watch’s Peter Montgomery, the groups were working to get states to ban abortions after just 15 weeks. The goal: “baiting” pro-choice lawsuits that could get them to the Supreme Court.
To get around settled law on abortion, the strategy was to argue that scientific developments have led to new medical understanding of abortion that merits new legal consideration.
Denise Burke, senior counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, told an evangelical conference, “We have very carefully targeted states based on where we think the courts are the best, where we think the governors and the A.G.s [attorneys general] and the legislatures are going to do the best job at defending these laws.”
She said the first 15-week ban was coming from Mississippi. Three months later, it was signed into law.
But Mississippi was lacking one of Burke’s key ingredients. The state hadn’t had a Republican attorney general since 1878. That would soon change, however, with help from some of the world’s best-known companies.
Republican Lynn Fitch, then the state’s treasurer, made abortion an explicit part of her platform when she announced her campaign for attorney general in January 2019. Endorsing Fitch that August, the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List said Fitch “played a key role" drafting the 2016 national Republican platform, “the party’s most pro-life platform ever.”
One responsibility attorneys general have is to defend state legislation against legal challenges, and during her election announcement Fitch promised, as Mississippi Today reported, to “defend our state laws as they are.”
Corporate America rushed to help Fitch, though not necessarily with an eye toward the implications for abortion rights.
Chevron spokesperson Deena McMullen did not address the implications for abortion rights, but told TYT, “We make political contributions to support the election of candidates who believe, like we do, in the value of responsible oil and natural gas operations. Every political contribution Chevron makes is subject to a thorough review process and is made in accordance with the law.” Other companies named in this report did not immediately respond to TYT’s requests for comment.
The abortion advocacy group We Engage emerged from the experiences of patient escorts and clinic defenders in Mississipi. We Engage founder and board chair Kim Gibson told TYT, "Had companies done any due diligence on Fitch, given a damn, they would have seen the threat."
Conservative-controlled companies such as Walmart, Tyson Foods, and Koch Industries also gave money to Fitch’s campaign, as did Trump’s failed Labor Dept. nominee, Andrew Puzder and former Senate Republican leader-turned lobbyist Trent Lott.
Some companies donated even after their prior support for abortion foes was spotlighted in a May 2019 report by Popular Information’s Judd Legum. As Legum reported, some of the companies in his report publicly espoused policies of supporting women.
AT&T, the parent company of CNN, had given $15,000 to then-Gov. Phil Bryant, who signed the 15-week abortion bill into law, and $10,000 to Tate Reeves, who rose from lieutenant governor to succeed Bryant and who stands by the law. Campaign-finance records show that AT&T and its PAC wrote Fitch checks totaling $2500.
Comcast, the parent company of MSNBC, also helped put Fitch in power, writing her a check for $5000 one month before the election.
Other well-known companies that helped elect Fitch include:
One month after Fitch’s November 2019 victory, when her position on abortion and the national implications were both well known, Facebook and Amazon (whose CEO, Jeff Bezos, owns the Washington Post) donated $1000 each to her campaign.
Fitch also got backing from members of the Dowell family of Ridgeland, MS. The family runs the Dowell Group at Morgan Stanley, which offers financial services.
Fitch’s single biggest donor was the political action committee of the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA), which funneled $150,000 to her campaign, along with in-kind donations valued at $49,000. RAGA’s corporate donors include Chevron, Comcast, Exxon, Facebook, Koch, Monsanto, Tyson, Wal Mart and others.
Fueled by corporate money, Fitch soundly defeated Democrat Jennifer Riley Collins, an ACLU veteran who campaigned on defending reproductive rights.
Mississippi’s only clinic that performs abortions had sued in 2018 to overturn the state’s 15-week abortion ban. The courts, even the conservative Fifth Circuit, sided with the clinic. But now the state had a Republican attorney general.
In June 2020, Yall Politics reported that Fitch, just five months in office, had asked the Supreme Court to rule on the state law -- the last step in the right-wing plan to give the high court a shot at Roe.
In her petition, Fitch argued that new scientific understanding about abortion warrants the court’s consideration.
On Monday, the Supreme Court agreed.
With additional research by News Assistant Zoltan Lucas and TYT Investigates Intern Jamia Zarzuela.