The alliance between corporate America and the Republican Party has been strong and consistent over the course of many years, but GOP officials are not above threatening their ostensible allies.
It was a few months ago, for example, when many Republican-led states began imposing new voting restrictions, prompting criticisms from many prominent American businesses. Many in the party responded by threatening major corporations with retaliatory policy measures if they said anything negative in public about the GOP's voter-suppression campaign.
In April, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell went so far as to say that business "will invite serious consequences" if they stand up for voting rights in ways the GOP doesn't like.
For a variety of reasons, it was unsettling to see Republicans engage in such tactics. Nearly five months later, it's actually worse to see the party doing it again. USA Today reported overnight:
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy warned "a Republican majority will not forget" telecommunications companies that turn over phone records to the congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol attack. More than 30 companies including Apple, AT&T and Verizon, received a request for phone records from congressional investigators Monday.
"If these companies comply with the Democrat [sic] order to turn over private information, they are in violation of federal law and subject to losing their ability to operate in the United States,” the California Republican said in a statement issued last night. “If companies still choose to violate federal law, a Republican majority will not forget and will stand with Americans to hold them fully accountable under the law."
McCarthy didn't specify which "law" he believes telecommunication companies will be violating if they cooperate with the investigation, suggesting his intimidation tactics were rooted in hollow posturing.
Part of what makes this so extraordinary is the nature of the message. In the spring, when Republicans went after companies that supported voting rights, the campaign was largely about message discipline: GOP officials expected corporate America to toe the party line.
McCarthy's new message is worse because he's actively trying to undermine an ongoing federal investigation. The bipartisan select committee is closely examining an insurrectionist attack on the United States Capitol — a probe the House minority leader said he supported before changing his mind for partisan reasons — and investigators need the assistance of telecommunications companies to learn the whole truth.
It's against this backdrop that the House's top Republican — a man who might very well become House Speaker after the 2022 midterm elections — effectively told these companies, "Keep the whole truth hidden or we'll punish you later."
A cynic might wonder why McCarthy is so eager to keep the facts under wraps.
By way of a response, the House select committee issued a statement that read in part, "The committee’s efforts won’t be deterred by those who want to whitewash or cover up the events of January 6th, or obstruct our investigation."
The use of the word "obstruct" was of particular interest. Legal experts can speak to this with more authority than I can, but it's hardly unreasonable to wonder whether McCarthy is obstructing justice with strong-arm tactics like these.