WASHINGTON ― A former federal prosecutor has launched a campaign to press American businesses to openly reject the core assertion that former President Donald Trump and many in his party continue to make, that the 2020 election was somehow illegitimate.
“The 2020 presidential election was free and fair, and produced accurate, reliable results,” reads the explanation behind the “Democracy Pledge” that Glenn Kirschner hopes to put before “every company in the country” in the coming months. “Those who sought to undermine or otherwise refused to acknowledge these results, share responsibility for the civil unrest after the election, culminating in violence at the United States Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.”
The pledge includes a declaration of “valuing, affirming and supporting democracy,” and of affirming “that the election of Joseph R. Biden and Kamala Harris was free, fair and legitimate.”
The final piece asks companies to “not support, donate to or endorse politicians, political campaigns or political action committees that promoted false conspiracy theories surrounding the 2020 presidential elections (or otherwise acted in ways contrary to a representative democracy).”
“What we’re trying to do is force companies’ hands so they can’t be agnostic,” Kirschner said.
Trump began lying about the election results in the wee hours of election night and continued straight through Jan. 6, when he told a crowd of his supporters gathered near the White House to march on the Capitol to intimidate Vice President Mike Pence and members of Congress into overturning the election Trump had lost by 7 million votes and giving him a second term anyway. Three police officers were left dead, and 140 others were injured. Hundreds of Trump supporters who attacked police or breached the building have been arrested, with hundreds of more arrests pending.
Yet Trump and many top Republicans have never apologized for spreading the lies about the “stolen” election and “massive voter fraud” that fueled his followers’ anger in the first place.
As of late Friday, 23 firms were featured on the Democracy Pledge website, from a photography workshop in Missoula, Montana, to a law office in Melbourne, Florida. Kirschner said he and his fellow volunteers have not actively approached any companies yet; those on the site now came to them, he said.
He added that he doubts many companies will straight up refuse to take the pledge, but anticipated many will avoid responding at all. He said those names will, after some period, be listed, as well. “And then we’re going to provide that information to consumers,” he said. “And they can make their purchasing decisions accordingly.”
A number of companies announced after Jan. 6 that they would not donate to politicians who spread Trump’s election lie or would pause donating to political campaigns entirely. This raised alarm in Republican committees since Trump and many of his supporters were continuing to push his falsehoods and making them a litmus test for other Republicans.
The Republican National Committee did not respond to a HuffPost query about whether it supported the group’s pledge.
Kirschner, who spent six years as an Army lawyer in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps followed by 24 years as prosecutor in the District of Columbia’s U.S. attorney’s office, said he doesn’t see declaring support for basic democratic values like accepting the results of an election as partisan.
As to what would constitute spreading conspiracy theories: having signed onto the lawsuit filed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton that tried to overturn the election by claiming fraud in other states would be a good qualifier, Kirschner said. A total of 18 state attorneys general and 126 Republican lawmakers supported that effort. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz even volunteered to argue the case before the U.S. Supreme Court, which, in the end, summarily rejected it instead.
Even more GOP members of Congress voted, just hours after their lives had been put in danger by Trump’s violent mob, to reject the Electoral College vote tally showing that Biden had won. But Kirschner said that vote, by itself, would not consign someone to the anti-democracy list. Members of Congress had made similar arguments in previous elections, and it would be unfair to punish the 147 Republicans who did the same this time, he added.
He said he could also understand a company wanting to add its own language into the pledge to clarify statements to their satisfaction. “We’re not trying to be jerks about it,” he said. “Let’s not make the perfect the enemy of the good.”
Supporting Trump himself now, though, is another matter, Kirschner said. “You can’t support Donald Trump and argue that you are in favor of free and fair elections. … If you’re supporting him, you’re just not supporting democracy.”