AT&T finally discovers Steve King is a racist. Here’s more candidates it should worry about.

The telecom behemoth's claims about its core values just do not add up.

Rep. Steve King (R-IA) at an anti-immigrant rally in September.
Rep. Steve King (R-IA) at an anti-immigrant rally in September -- before AT&T PAC's most recent contribution to his campaign. CREDIT: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

Rep. Steve King (R-IA) has been an overtly racist, xenophobicsexisthomophobic extremist with ties to white nationalist parties for a long, long time. And AT&T’s corporate political action committee has been bankrolling his re-elections for more than a decade. It was just last week — after a public pressure campaign — that the company announced it has finally noticed that King’s record clashed with its stated “core values.”

In 2002, King ran for U.S. Congress on a record that included making English the official language of Iowa. In 2006, he suggested an electric fence at the southern border to shock immigrants, comparing them to livestock. In 2008, King said that terrorists would be “dancing in the streets” if Barack Obama won the presidency and would “declare victory in this war on terror.” In 2013, he repeatedly accused immigrant kids of being mostly “drug mules” with “calves the size of cantaloupes.” In 2016, he opined that white people have contributed the most to civilization. In 2017, he vocally backed a far-right racist in The Netherlands while saying that “we” cannot “restore our future with someone else’s babies” (he was talking about a Dutch candidate).

From 2005 to Sept. 27, 2018, AT&T’s PAC gave King at least $1,000 every single year. In total, the telecom giant has given King more than $60,000 — the legal maximum of $10,000 in the 2018 campaign cycle alone.

In recent weeks, King’s endorsement of a Canadian candidate with neo-Nazi links, his promotion of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about George Soros, and his obsession with far-right European parties have finally become enough to alienate many of his Iowa constituents and at least one GOP leader. But apparently it was not until Friday that AT&T noticed any of this.


In a pair of tweets, the company’s public policy team announced that it will not give to King if he runs in future elections because he does not “stand for equality.” The company called it a “core value” and said that future support “would not be consistent” with that principle.

But King’s racism has not suddenly been revealed in the past several weeks. The company did not seem to mind him standing against equality for immigrants, women, religious and racial minorities, and LGBTQ people over the past decade-plus.


More troubling is that the PAC’s other recipients also include many others who have been leaders in the fight against equality. Just this cycle, AT&T PAC has given $6,000 to Rep. Vicki Hartzler (R-MO), who authored an amendment to discriminate against transgender U.S. service members and compared them to the “threat” posed by ISIS and Vladimir Putin. It gave $5,000 to Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO), who said in 2011 that associating with President Obama was like “touching a tar baby.” It gave $2,000 to Rep. Don Young (R-AK), who five years ago slurred Latino immigrants as “wetbacks.” It gave $6,000 to Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), who believes it is okay to discriminate against gay people in housing and has repeatedly slurred Chinese people. It gave $7,000 to anti-LGBTQ extremist Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), who once claimed without evidence that Matthew Shepard’s lynching was nothing more than a botched robbery. It sent $3,000 to Rep. Steve Russell (R-OK), who in 2014 authored an amendment aimed at bringing North Carolina-style anti-LGBTQ discrimination to the whole nation. And it gave $3,000 to House nominee Bryan Steil (R-WI),  who has used anti-Semitic dog-whistle attacks even after a mass shooting level several worshipers dead at a Pittsburgh synagogue.

If AT&T is serious about not funding candidates and offcials who don’t stand for equality, it is going to have to do a lot more introspection.