Corporate Leadership and Politics

Recently there was a brouhaha over the hiring (and then firing) of Brendan Eich, the CEO of Mozilla.  In 2008, Eich gave a personal contribution to the campaign for Proposition 8, the California constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.  Same-sex marriage supporters responded to Eich’s hiring with criticism and threats of a boycott before the company essentially rescinded the offer.

While you can look at this case as an example of free speech or intolerance (or both–there is plenty of intolerant free speech), I want to suggest that this sort of thing is an unintended consequence of Citizens United.  In a world where corporations can give large sums to political campaigns, the political views of a company’s CEO are highly relevant.  Suppose the new head of Microsoft was a fervent supporter of [some cause or candidate] and decided to back [some cause or candidate] with $1 billion from the company’s cash hoard.  People on the other side of that issue would have every reason to organize against that person as the CEO.  Now it is unlikely that a publicly-traded company would pick a political activist as its leader, and the Board of Directors (not to mention shareholders) would probably take a dim view of such large political contributions. But I can understand where the concern would come from.

I am not saying that this is why Eich was raked over the coals.  In his case, people were attacking him for his past behavior, not for what he might do in the future.  But they could have been worried about the future.



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3 Responses

  1. brad says:

    Mozilla is itself a non-profit (technically a wholly owned for-profit subsidiary of a non-profit, but it amounts to the same thing). It doesn’t have much of a cash hoard and is unlikely to ever amass one. One with an international and charitable missing written into its charter.

    The people that brought down Eich were by and large volunteers who were not interested in volunteering for an organization lead by a bigot (the user boycott was a much less important consideration than the developer one). Not because they were afraid that mozilla qua mozilla would donate to some US political campaign, which is facially absurd.

  2. AYY says:

    The people who did the firing are still around and they’re perfectly capable of speaking for themselves, so there’s no need to speculate about what they might have thought about the future. They and OK Cupid got themselves into this mess, so let them get themselves out.

    Brad, calling someone a “bigot” for donating money to a political campaign that was supported by the majority of voters shows closed mindedness on your part.

  3. brad says:

    I don’t see why a majority of voters in a given state can’t be bigots.