Time for California companies to speak up on Trump

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks in Washington.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks in Washington. AP

Given the depths to which Republican front-runner Donald Trump’s campaign has fallen, it’s no wonder several corporations are taking heat for going along with the age-old practice of sponsoring the Republican National Convention.

Activists are urging at least three California companies – Google, Adobe and Cisco – to withdraw funding and in-kind product donations that they had pledged to the convention’s Host Committee. Apple also is reportedly reassessing its plans.

“Sponsorship of a Trump-led convention will be an endorsement of his hate-filled and racist rhetoric and runs counter to the values of your company,” the group Color of Change wrote in a letter to several companies.

Republicans have a right to nominate the candidate of their choice. Corporations have the right to fund the convention. And consumers have a right to be dismayed by it all, and vote with their wallets.

If it becomes clear that Trump will be the Republican nominee for president, corporate leaders should think long and hard about what role they want to play in July’s convention. Trump did, after all, say his supporters might riot if he fails to gain the nomination. No company would want to be stained by that.

Scaling back financial support is an option, although it would almost certainly spell trouble for the host city of Cleveland, on the hook for $64 million.

At a minimum, any company involved in the convention – particularly any California company – should speak out against Trump’s most divisive rhetoric. Doing so would be good for business and good for the country. Besides, there’s precedent.

For the past year, CEOs have been sticking their noses into red states’ legislative processes, fighting against bills that would enshrine discriminatory policies. As tactics, public shaming and boycott threats have often worked because state leaders fear the impact of losing forward-thinking businesses.

Take Georgia, where under threats from Hollywood, Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed a “religious liberty” bill that would’ve made it legal for businesses to deny services to gay people. Something similar happened in Indiana where Gov. Mike Pence signed so-called religious liberty legislation and then softened it because of corporate pressure.

Sure, it doesn’t always work. North Carolina, for example, recently enacted a law that eliminates anti-discrimination protections for gay people. Since then, executives from more than 80 companies including Facebook, Lyft and Dropbox, have signed a letter, calling for it to be repealed. Gov. Pat McCrory is standing fast.

California companies excel in no small part because this state is welcoming. Smart executives understand that talent matters. We export almonds, software and films. So much the better if we can add tolerance to that list.