The Jolt: Patagonia giving $1 million for voting rights after new Georgia law

Voting-rights activists call for a boycott of Delta Air Lines during a protest at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Atlanta, March 25, 2021. With lawmakers around the country advancing restrictive voting rights bills that would disproportionately impact Black voters, much of corporate America has gone quiet. (Nicole Craine/The New York Times)

Voting-rights activists call for a boycott of Delta Air Lines during a protest at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Atlanta, March 25, 2021. With lawmakers around the country advancing restrictive voting rights bills that would disproportionately impact Black voters, much of corporate America has gone quiet. (Nicole Craine/The New York Times)

Call it the anti-boycott. While Major League Baseball it is pulling the All Star Game out of Georgia in protest of the state’s recently passed election law, Patagonia is giving $1 million to groups to push voting access in the state.

In an announcement Tuesday morning, the outdoor apparel maker announced it will divide the money equally between the New Georgia Project and the Black Voters Matter Fund, two grassroots groups that actively opposed Senate Bill 202 in Georgia before Gov. Brian Kemp signed the legislation last week.

Patagonia does not have a Political Action Committee, but in a message to other corporate leaders, CEO Ryan Gellert called on them to similarly fund and support activists working to challenge the Georgia law and others like it being considered in state legislatures around the country.

“I call on fellow CEOs to join in denouncing these attacks on our democracy and to do more than make a corporate statement,” Gellert wrote. “The strength of our democracy depends on every vote being counted everywhere, and we must protect access to the ballot box.”

Corley Kenna, a spokeswoman for Patagonia, told the AJC, the company chose the New Georgia Project and Black Voters Matter, “Because we wanted to support the groups that are involved in the lawsuits challenging the recent bill signed into law in Georgia and that are effective grassroots community organizers.”

Kenna said the money will primarily go toward voter registration and civic engagement. The New Georgia Project will focus on Georgia, while Black Voters Matter will work in Georgia and other states considering legislation similar to SB 202.

Kemp and fellow Republicans have tried to use corporate opposition to the bill to unify Republican base voters and rally against what the governor says is an attempt to bully conservatives into silence on election laws.

After the MLB, Delta Airlines and the Coca-Cola Company came out in staunch opposition to the new law, Kemp told Tucker Carlson’s Fox News audience, “This is a message to all of us. They’re coming after you next. They’re going to boycott your business next. We have to stand up.”


U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene is fast becoming a financial juggernaut with a fundraising team raking in small-dollar contributions with every controversial or fact-free statement she makes. (The latest: Proof of being vaccinated against COVID-19 is “Biden’s mark of the beast”?)

But it’s becoming increasingly likely that far-right Republican will face a well-financed Democratic opponent, even though flipping the deeply-conservative northwest Georgia district seems the longest of longshots.

Democrat Marcus Flowers, a U.S. Army veteran and former government contractor who frames himself as a centrist, told the AJC he’s raised roughly $500,000 since March 1, collecting contributions from more than 20,000 donors.

“We are building a movement here in Georgia, one that puts service to country ahead of service to Q,” said Flowers, referring to Greene’s former adherence to the dangerous QAnon conspiracy theory.

Senior Democrats acknowledge they face long odds and some are urging donors to channel their money instead to Reps. Lucy McBath and Carolyn Bourdeaux, two vulnerable incumbents who recently flipped GOP districts.

But Flowers and other local Democrats say there’s a chance to test the district’s patience with Greene, whose history of racist and violent stances prompted an unprecedented bipartisan vote to strip her of her committee assignments.

What’s more, Greene never faced a true general election opponent last year, as the Democratic nominee dropped out of the race and moved to Indiana after his wife filed divorce papers in the heat of the campaign.

Flowers isn’t the only Democrat competing to challenge Greene.

More than a dozen potential contenders have taken initial steps to run for the seat and some could pack financial firepower. Among them: Holly McCormack, a local business owner, said she raised roughly $85,000 from about 2,500 donors.

“With so much at stake in Congress, the hard working people of our district deserve a representative who actually works for them,” said McCormack. “And that’s what I will do.”


Is Gov. Brian Kemp solidifying his position in the Georgia GOP world?

As we reported over the weekend, Major League Baseball’s decision to pull the All-Star game allows him to play the hero with the pro-Trump crowd, and he’s been maximizing his window with dozens of appearances on conservative media.

Just as telling is the messaging from one of his top would-be challengers, former U.S. Rep. Doug Collins.

Just a few months ago, former President Donald Trump was practically begging Collins to primary Kemp in 2022, and the former congressman was frequently floating the idea himself.

On Fox News last night, Collins had a slightly different tune: He said he was “seriously” considering a challenge to U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock next year, but didn’t utter a word about what would be a brutal primary challenge to Kemp.

But… Kemp isn’t out of the woods yet. State Sen. Burt Jones is among those rumbling about challenging him. So is Vernon Jones, a former Democratic legislator who last year became popular with the Trump crowd.

And Trump late Monday issued a new statement knocking the “watered-down” election law that he said should have had other “safety measures.”

As a reminder: Neither Trump, the Georgia GOP, nor any court challenge ever produced evidence of widespread voting fraud and three separate tallies of Georgia’s vote upheld Joe Biden’s victory over Trump.


On the continuing “cancel culture” saga, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said he was so incensed with Major League Baseball’s decision about Georgia that he refused to throw out the first pitch at the Texas Rangers game.

The Republican governor also said Texas wouldn’t compete for the re-scheduled All-Star game or any other major MLB event this year.

Never mind all that: The league picked Denver for the big event. The state of Colorado now uses all mail-in voting for elections.


Speaking of boycotts: Former President Donald Trump called for the boycott of Coca-Cola a few days ago after the Atlanta-based beverage giant criticized the election law.

But we’ve got evidence that he’s still enjoying Coke products himself, even if it’s hidden behind a picture frame on his desk...


Giving food and water, or even a Coke, to voters in line may be against Georgia law in the future, but Gwinnett County won’t be enforcing it.

The Gwinnett County Solicitor’s office released a statement Monday saying it, “will not prosecute individuals arrested for distributing nonpartisan beverages and/or food to voters waiting in line for long hours on Election Day in Gwinnett County as there is no rational, legal basis for this law.”

Solicitor Brian Whiteside told the AJC in an interview, “It’s unjust to criminalize giving someone some water. The state law is not constitutional, what they did.”

Last week, Gwinnett County also posted a notice that free paper ID cards are now available through the Clerk of Court’s office for any resident who needs one to cast an absentee ballot in the future.


In an item yesterday about COVID vaccinations and members of Congress, we wrote that all six Democrats in the Georgia delegation have received their vaccines, while four of eight Republicans had responded they’d gotten the jab.

Several readers wrote in asking for more detail.

This is how it breaks down:

Aides for Reps. Barry Loudermilk, R-Cassville; Jody Hice, R-Monroe; and Andrew Clyde, R-Athens, did not respond to questions as to whether they received the vaccine.

Rep. Drew Ferguson, R-West Point, was reported by States Newsroom to have received the vaccine. His office did not respond to emails from the AJC.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Rome, told the AJC she has not been vaccinated.

Aides for Reps. Rick Allen, R-Augusta; Buddy Carter, R-Pooler; and Austin Scott, R-Tifton said they have been vaccinated.

Scott told the AJC that he was vaccinated the first day that his age group was eligible in the state of Georgia, following his own bout in the hospital with COVID-19.

“As a 50year-old I was on oxygen for 14 days,” Scott told the AJC. “It is not something that I want to have again.”

Having COVID-19 may or may not confer immunity, so experts advise those who have recovered to get vaccinated.


State Sen. Lester Jackson, D-Savannah, is running for Georgia Labor Commissioner in 2022, the Savannah Morning News reports.

The Lowcountry dentist is in his seventh term in the state Senate. Before that, he served for 10 years in the state House and is a past chairman of the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus.

Jackson won’t have the Democratic field to himself. On Monday, state Rep. William Boddie, an East Point Democrat, said he’s running for the statewide post, too.

Republican state Sen. Bruce Thompson has also announced his run to challenge the GOP incumbent, Labor Commissioner Mark Butler.


During a stop at Macon’s Heritage Elementary School last week, U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff announced Bibb County Schools will get a whopping $106 million from the recently passed American Rescue Plan Act.

Ossoff said the money is meant to go toward student learning losses that have resulted from the pandemic, as well as other impacts from the last tumultuous year, the Macon Telegraph reports.

Bibb County School Superintendent Dr. Curtis Jones called the money “transformational.”

Overall, Georgia schools are expected to receive about $4 billion through the new legislation.


It’s the second week of Congress’ two-week recess. U.S. Rep. Drew Ferguson will hold a tele-townhall tonight for Third District residents.

The district includes portions of Middle and West Georgia, including Newnan, which was hit hard by recent tornadoes. RSVP and additional information is on the congressman’s website.


We now have more information about the discrepancies in reported COVID-19 deaths at Georgia’s nursing homes that prompted U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock and U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson to demand a federal investigation.

The two Democrats want more scrutiny of state Department of Community Health data on deaths at nursing homes that often varied wildly from the numbers that the federal government has reported. More from the AJC’s Carrie Teegardin:

“The most recent federal reports show 3,165 Georgia nursing home deaths through March 21, the most recent information available.

“Yet, the AJC found dozens of cases where the number of deaths was significantly higher in the federal reports than in the state reports. With some homes, the federal numbers were at least two times greater than those in state reports.

“Some differences were the result of reporting errors.

“For example, Memorial Manor Nursing Home in Bainbridge is shown as having had 11 COVID-19 deaths in its state report, but 74 in the federal report. The home said the correct number is 11, but confusion over the reporting process inflated its figures."

- The Atlanta Journal-Constitution


In state Capitol personnel news, Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan’s policy director, Mike Dudgeon, is departing.

Marcy McFaul, Duncan’s deputy chief of staff, will take over the LG’s policy portfolio and manage his legislative priorities going forward.