Following the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, survivors and advocates breathed life back into the spirit of the Grab Your Wallet campaign, demanding organizations that support the National Rifle Association severe ties, many of whom provided discounts to NRA members.
Corporations responded by ending their programs just hours after the boycott was announced, angering NRA supporters. One of the most notable corporations found on the boycott list was Delta Air Lines, which provided a discount to NRA members who planned group flights to the annual NRA convention in May.
When ThinkProgress reached Delta for comment, a spokesperson initially defended the program as routine, touting fact that they have “more than 2,000 contracts in place.” The next day, however, the airline canceled its program and asked the NRA to remove the information from its website.
That afternoon, the NRA accused the corporations that terminated their relationship with the organization of showing “political and civic cowardice.” Just days later, Georgia Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle threatened the Atlanta-based airline–and one of the state’s largest employers–for its decision.
Rick Jeffares, Republican State Senator, and candidate for Lieutenant Governor joined Cagle in his attack.
In the same way members of the NRA are not entitled to a discounted flight, Delta Airlines is not entitled to tax credits. But whether or not you support the NRA, Cagle and Jeffares are making a huge mistake with their careers, conservatives at large, and their constituents.
I want to start off by pointing out the obvious: this is extortion. Cagle and Jeffares are threatening to withhold public action because a corporation made a decision that they didn’t like. While I agree that Delta is purely making this decision so it won’t negatively affect their bottom line, they have a duty to serve their stakeholders. Cagle and Jeffares, however, seem to forget that they actually work for the people who made this decision, as Delta employees are Georgia constituents. Instead, they seem to be acting on behalf of an organization based in the suburbs of Washington, DC, whose members are actually quite different from conservative non-NRA members.
In July 2017, the Pew Research Center found that while most gun owners tend to be Republicans, members of the NRA skew further to the right. In fact, NRA members are at odds with Republicans who aren’t members of the organization. For example, non-members are more likely to support background checks and less likely to support shortening waiting periods for buying guns. There has been a divide in among gun owners even before the shooting, and it has likely grown since the release of this study. Conservatives and gun-owners aren’t one and the same, and there’s a possibility Cagle’s constituents — conservative or liberal– might not necessarily share his sentiment.
In 2014, Governor Nathan Deal signed in an NRA-backed bill, the Safe Carry Protection Act. In a poll for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Georgia voters disapproved of the measure. This finding is particularly curious, as the same responders either owned a gun or believed having one would protect them. The level disapproval dropped only slightly in a different poll conducted by the AJC in January 2017, where voters revealed they were opposed to efforts to legalize guns on state college campus. With the gubernatorial elections underway, Lt. Gov. Cagle may want to tread carefully as he gears up for his campaign.
Making an unnecessary enemy out of the state’s largest player could impact its economy and make Cagle and Jeffares an easy target for their opponents on both sides of the aisle. After the fallout of Delta’s decision, public officials opened their arms to Delta suggesting they should move to their respective cities and states.
An HQ move would be a huge blow to the Georgia economy, as the airline contributes $300 million to the state and local governments and fuels the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport economic impact. Delta has also played a significant role in improving the airport’s facilities. Hartsfield-Jackson is the world’s busiest airport, making Delta’s contributions all the more important. Delta has yet to respond to any of these public officials, but tax incentives and a sunny disposition could certainly entice Delta to move elsewhere, potentially risking the job security of Delta and Hartsfield-Jackson employees in Atlanta, as well as the future of the state’s economy.
While WABE pointed out that Delta is unlikely to flee Atlanta, it has been theorized that such rhetoric could scare-off Amazon, who has the city on its shortlist for its new headquarters, and was once its most likely pick. If Amazon decides to head to another city, prospective tech employees and tech advocates may know who to blame.
Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle hopes to replace Governor Nathan Deal in November. State Senator Rick Jeffares hopes to be his replacement. So when they are asked how they let Amazon slip away and alienated their own constituents because the state’s moneymaker cancelled a discount for a campaign donor and lobby organization, they better have an answer ready.