Disney CEO Bob Chapek is cozying up to Republican lawmakers ahead of the midterm elections, according to a new report.
Chapek has been having “private phone calls” this year with House Republican leaders including Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., according to CNBC, which cited anonymous sources briefed on the conversations..
Polls have suggested that the Republican Party, which has been critical of Disney’s stances on social issues, has the edge to win a majority in the House. That would mean Scalise will likely become House majority leader, making the congressman the No.2 official in the majority party.
The Mouse House has been a focus for Republicans over a host of stances deemed “woke” by the party. The most public dustup between Disney and Republicans came earlier this year over its opposition to the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
Disney told CNBC that the company speaks to lawmakers from both parties. Neither Disney nor Scalise returned requests for comment.
CNBC said some Disney execs and their advisers are “concerned” that Republicans could “ramp up their attacks on the company if the party wins control of the House.”
For example, they worry that the GOP could “pressure” Disney to stay silent on social issues, such as the Supreme Court ruling in June that overturned Roe V. Wade and the right to an abortion. After that decision, Disney told employees it will cover travel expenses related to out-of-state abortions.
“I think there is significant concern now that Republican lawmakers believe in free markets and capitalism but only if they agree with that company,” Cristina Antelo, a Democratic lobbyist who counts Disney as a client, told CNBC in a recent interview.
Antelo said that Republicans “can bring pressure on companies that they believe are too woke” if they retake the House majority starting in January.
But Disney is hoping to grease the wheels a bit and work their contacts.
Chapek has had a relationship with Scalise for some time. Two years ago, Scalise’s leadership PAC [political action committee] hosted a fundraising event at Disney World’s Polynesian Village in Florida, Axios reported. Scalise’s campaign has also hosted previous fundraisers at Disney World, according to NOLA.com.
According to Federal Election Commission records, Disney lobbyist Bill Bailey has donated $1,500 combined to Scalise’s leadership PAC and his reelection campaign since October 2021.
What’s more, Disney spent just over $2.3 million on in-house lobbying from the start of the second quarter through the end of the third quarter, CNBC reported.
The Mouse House shelled out $1.37 million in the second quarter alone. The sum makes it the most Disney has spent on its in-house lobbying efforts in a single quarter since the first quarter of 2011, according to disclosure reports cited by CNBC.
The “Don’t Say Gay” bill banned the teaching of sexual or gender identity to students up to fourth grade.
At first, Chapek wobbled on his company’s position, but criticism from LGBT employees and the left, moved the CEO to come out hard in opposition. Disney’s attempt to placate its critics enraged the Republican leadership in Florida, and the flap became a hot-button issue to win over conservative voters.
Amid the dustup, Chapek said the company was pausing campaign donations in Florida following the bill’s passage.
Gov. DeSantis signed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill into la and then stripped Disney of its autonomous status over its theme parks in and around Orlando.