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Republican AG group holds private retreat for corporate donors at swanky Palm Beach resort


Anti-abortion activists show outside the Supreme Court of the USA in Washington, June 13, 2022.

Evelyn Hockstein | Reuters

The Republican Attorneys General Association is hosting a personal retreat for its corporate donors at a luxury resort in Florida this weekend — on the heels of the GOP’s long-sought win in getting Roe v. Wade overturned by the Supreme Court.

Nearly 20 corporations and trade groups are said to have RSVP’d to attend the three-day retreat, including lobbyists and executives from CNBC’s corporate parent Comcast, Match Group, General Motors, Johnson & Johnson, Anheuser-Busch, Juul Labs, Koch Industries, Lowe’s, and Walmart, based on an inventory of expected attendees obtained by CNBC.

The private gathering on the luxurious Breakers resort in Palm Beach, Fla. — where the most affordable room on its website goes for around $830 an evening — is scheduled to start out on Sunday and carry through late Tuesday, based on an agenda reviewed by CNBC. The agenda, titled “ERC & Victory Fund Retreat” shows a gap reception and dinner on Sunday followed by a cigar and whiskey reception on Monday with optional excursions to play golf, attend a tennis clinic or go deep sea fishing.

The retreat falls because the group seeks more donations to fend off legal attacks from Democrats in search of to guard abortion rights. A June 24 fundraising email said “every donation will help the Republican Attorneys General combat the Democrats’ pro-abortion agenda and stand tall for all times.”

The group, headed by South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson, didn’t reply to repeated requests for comment.

Lobbying giant Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, PhRMA, and the US Chamber Institute for Legal Reform, a business legal advocacy group, are also listed as those set to attend the upcoming retreat.

Records show that, because the 2020 election cycle, almost of all of the firms and trade groups listed to attend the private retreat have combined to contribute over $4 million to RAGA. They raised over $4 million alone in the primary quarter of 2022.

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Out of all the expected attendees, only seven responded on the record to CNBC’s requests for comment on whether or not they still plan to attend the gathering in Florida or their plans to proceed to support the Republican Attorney Generals group, given its advocacy in overturning of Roe.

Pfizer was invited but has decided to not go, spokeswoman Sharon Castillo said in an emailed statement on Wednesday.

“Our engagement with RAGA has focused mainly on advancing healthcare policies related to patient safety and efforts to combat counterfeit medicines, and is totally unrelated to the Supreme Court’s decision on abortion,” she added.

PhRMA spokeswoman Sarah Sutton, in an emailed statement to CNBC, didn’t confirm or deny whether or not they were sending anyone to the retreat

“We engage with policymakers and organizations from each side of the aisle, in addition to bipartisan and nonpartisan organizations who all have a wide selection of health care opinions and priorities,” Sutton said. “We may not agree on every issue, but we imagine dialogue is very important to promoting a policy environment that supports innovation, a highly-skilled workforce and lifesaving medicines which can be reasonably priced for patients.”

Jeannine Ginivan, a spokeswoman for General Motors, also didn’t confirm or deny its attendance on the retreat. She noted that GM has also supported their rivals, the Democratic Attorneys General Association.

“General Motors has been a protracted time supporter of the Democratic Attorneys General Association and the Republican Attorneys General Association. GM believes that through continuous engagement with these organizations it has the very best opportunity to construct an understanding around issues necessary to GM and the auto industry,” Ginivan said.

Shira Rawlinson, a spokeswoman for the US Chamber Institute for Legal Reform, said in an announcement that the court’s decision on Roe v. Wade shouldn’t be a difficulty they take a position on as an establishment. “The Chamber’s Institute for Legal Reform has ongoing relationships with state attorneys general on each side of the aisle,” Rawlinson said. “We’ll proceed to work with those within the state AG community who support a good legal environment for the business community.”

Clare Boyle, a spokeswoman for Johnson and Johnson, didn’t confirm or deny whether the maker of on a regular basis products like Tylenol and Aveeno skincare products was attending the retreat. She did, nevertheless, note that the pharmaceutical company is not a member of the GOP group’s top membership tier often called he “Victory Fund.”

Kaitlin Craig, a spokeswoman for Anheuser-Busch, similarly didn’t confirm or deny whether it was sending anyone to the retreat. She sent an announcement saying the beer maker provides reproductive health advantages to employees, including contraception and fertility treatments.

“While we defer to Congress, state legislatures, and the courts with regards to policy on this issue, we are going to proceed to support our employees and their dependents through our company-sponsored health care plans and programs,” Craig said.

Though it’s unclear how much each corporation donated to attend the event, an overview throughout the group’s 2022 membership packet suggests it could cost as much as $250,000. An ERC or Edmund Randolph Club member, named for certainly one of America’s founding fathers and the seventh governor of Virginia, must donate $125,000 a yr. That membership includes “unlimited passes to annual Victory Fund and ERC Retreat,” based on the 2021 membership outline. Victory Fund members must donate not less than $250,000 to the group.

For the reason that court’s decision to overturn the landmark abortion ruling last month, Comcast and Match Group said they’ll cover travel costs for workers who must travel out of state for abortions. Match Group, an organization that owns dating sites such at Tinder and OkCupid, recently made the decision to suspend contributions to each the Republican and Democratic Attorneys General groups.

Comcast has yet to publicly say whether they’ll halt donations to either group because the ruling and didn’t return repeated requests for comment.

In an email to CNBC, Match spokeswoman Vidhya Murugesan didn’t address the RAGA event her company is about to attend. As an alternative, she sent CNBC a fact sheet that highlights the corporates healthcare advantages. It says the corporate “will fight all legal requests or subpoenas for any worker data or user data related to abortion or LGBTQIA+ rights.”

Mississippi’s Republican Attorney General Lynn Fitch, who’s listed on the Republican group’s website as certainly one of the group’s allied AGs, cosigned a transient last yr filed in support of overturning Roe v. Wade.

In it, Fitch argued that the court should “consider the policy and cultural shifts which have occurred within the 30-50 years since Roe and Casey and argues that the precedent set in these cases, ‘shackle states to a view of facts that’s many years outdated.'”

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