Delta, NRA dilemma shows how corporate interests influence law

Scott Shelton

Staff Writer

Since the beginning of the 21st century, corporations, special interest groups and their lobbyists have changed the way governments in America function.

This influence was evident just recently when Georgia’s Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle vowed to kill any legislation that benefits Delta because the airline decided to end its ties with the NRA.

Then, Georgia’s state Senate blocked legislation that would have given Delta a $50 million sales tax exemption on jet fuel.

Members of the NRA were able to get a group travel discount when they used Delta Air Lines, but a Delta spokesman told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that only 13 people used this discount.

Delta Air Lines is Georgia’s No. 1 private employer with over 33,000 employees in the state. Delta also produces $43.5 billion a year for the state’s economy, according to Delta’s website.

Atlanta has been Delta’s headquarters since 1941 and is the airline’s largest airport in the world, so why is Cagle attacking the company?

“Corporations cannot attack conservatives and expect us not to fight back,” Cagle said in a tweet. Cagle also said he would kill any legislation that benefits Delta unless it reinstates its relationship with the NRA.

Forget about politics for a moment. What should be more important: 13 people using a discount for an airline or 33,000 people’s jobs?

Of the 33,000 Delta employees, I would hazard to guess there are more than 13 conservatives employed.

Cities around the country, such as Birmingham, have offered Delta an opportunity to move its headquarters.

While Delta will likely not move, to threaten an integral part of the state’s economy is an extremely risky move by Cagle because Delta holds considerable power in the state.

The move is dangerous, and it also may be unconstitutional — at the very least, unethical.

Though unpopular, the Supreme Court case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission says that corporations have the same rights as regular citizens to express their political views.

So, the government cannot punish Delta for making a political statement.

The irony, however, is Delta’s CEO, Ed Bastian, says the company’s intent of ending its NRA discount was to remain neutral in the gun control debate.

If Cagle and the Georgia legislature took away Delta’s tax exemption, then they would be in legal trouble. But because Delta does not have the exemption, Cagle and company will likely not face legal consequences.

Democrats and Republicans are the two parties that win elections, but, especially since the Citizens United decision, corporations and their lobbyists move policy through the chambers of Congress or keep it still.

The NRA is a nonprofit organization, but since the 1990s it has wielded a lot of power in government.

In the 2016 campaign cycle, the NRA donated $834,000, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

The NRA is the main reason we do not see a change in gun laws. In 1996, the NRA accused the Centers for Disease Control of promoting gun control, so the Republican-controlled Congress threatened to strip the CDC’s funding if it did not stop researching firearm injuries and deaths.

Corporations, interest groups and their lobbyists seem to have just as much power as congressmen themselves.

While corporations have positive effects like giving jobs to 33,000 people in Georgia, we must recognize that in this century they have gained considerable influence at all levels of government—from federal all the way down to local government.

And under the current administration, which promised to “drain the swamp,” corporate interest is only going to grow from here.

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