Ann Arbor mayor, Wayne Co. Commission call on Blue Cross to defund ‘Big Lie’ backers

By: - July 19, 2022 1:26 pm

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Lansing | Susan J. Demas

Updated, 3:03 p.m., 7/19/22, with a statement from Blue Cross

A Michigan mayor is urging Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan (BCBSM) to stop providing financial support to politicians who have voted to support measures that some say disenfranchise voters of color in the state. 

“I have a difficult time understanding how you can lead an organization that provides services to government organizations like the city of Ann Arbor, sign a pledge that further supports the foundational democratic principles upon which government rests, and then permit BCBSM to contribute to legislators and candidates who act with intentionality to undermine and violate those principles,” Ann Arbor Mayor Christopher Taylor wrote to (BCBSM) CEO Dan Loepp. 

Ann Arbor Mayor Christopher Taylor | City of Ann Arbor

“The support of Big Lie [the conspiracy that former President Donald Trump won the 2020 election], disenfranchising legislators is at odds with Ann Arbor (and, frankly, American) values of democracy and harmful of employee and community health, in light of the empirical connection between a community’s access to the vote and a range of health outcomes,” Taylor added.

BCBSM is the state’s largest health insurance provider. 

“We have received the mayor’s letter and responded, and prefer to deal with his concerns directly and not through news media stories,” a BCBSM spokesperson said in an emailed statement on Tuesday.

The Ann Arbor mayor is aligned with the Defend Black Voters coalition, a group that has carried out several public demonstrations designed to call out BCBSM, General Motors Corp. and other corporations. The coalition has criticized them for backing GOP lawmakers who supported the “voter suppression effort called the Secure MI Vote [ballot] initiative.”

In June, the coalition rallied during the Mackinac Policy Conference and two weeks later in Detroit, where it called on Michigan-based corporations General Motors, Ford, DTE Energy and CMS Energy to pledge to end campaign contributions to state lawmakers “who are working to make it harder for Black people in Michigan to cast ballots.”

The coalition includes Mothering Justice Action Fund, MOSES (Metropolitan Organizing Strategy Enabling Strength) Action, Emergent Justice, Michigan People’s Campaign, Michigan Liberation and Community Change Action.

Meanwhile, the Wayne County Commission unanimously approved a resolution on Tuesday put forth by member Jonathan Kinloch (D-Detroit) that called for increased responsible corporate citizenship and urging businesses located in southeastern Michigan to “immediately align their spending with their professed corporate values and philosophies.”

Jonathan Kinloch | Wayne County Commission

“We’re living in precarious times. Black and working-class voters in Detroit showed up to the polls in force in the 2020 election and made their voices heard,” said Kinloch in the written statement. “Now certain elected officials, funded by some of the very corporations Wayne County does business with, are trying to make it harder for them to make it to the ballot box. I’m deeply troubled that taxpayer money from my constituents is being used to attack our freedom to vote and I plan on working with my fellow commissioners to ensure that Blue Cross aligns its actions with the values of Wayne County and their own professed values.”

Since 2016, BCBSM has given $329,000 to these lawmakers, and at the same time, has also donated $355,000 to the party committees that support these same legislators, according to the coalition.

“We need more of our elected officials to show the courage that Mayor Taylor has exhibited,” said Eboni Taylor, Michigan executive director of the Mothering Justice Action Fund. “He saw what’s happening and chose to stand on the right side of history, even if it means rocking the boat and calling out one of the most powerful corporations in Michigan. Hardworking mothers and their families deserve much more than to have their tax dollars used to fund the politicians trying to stop them from having their voices heard at the polls.”

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Ken Coleman
Ken Coleman

Ken Coleman covers Southeast Michigan, economic justice and civil rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on black life in Detroit, including Soul on Air: Blacks Who Helped to Define Radio in Detroit and Forever Young: A Coleman Reader. His work has been cited by the Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, History Channel and CNN. Additionally, he was an essayist for the award-winning book, Detroit 1967: Origins, Impacts, Legacies. Ken has served as a spokesperson for the Michigan Democratic Party, Detroit Public Schools, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters and U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence. Previously to joining the Advance, he worked for the Detroit Federation of Teachers as a communications specialist. He is a Historical Society of Michigan trustee and a Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit advisory board member.

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