Bob Chapek, Chief Executive Officer of Disney, speaks at the 2022 Disney Legends Awards during Disney’s D23 Expo in Anaheim, California, September 9, 2022.
Mario Anzuoni | Reuters
Disney is preparing for Republicans to take control of the House, as polls suggest the party has an edge over Democrats in the days before the midterm elections.
Disney CEO Bob Chapek has been having private phone calls this year with House Republican leaders including Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., according to people briefed on the matter. Scalise is in line to become House majority leader if Republicans take control of the chamber, which would make him the No. 2 official in the majority party.
These people briefed on the calls declined to be named in order to speak about private conversations. Asked about Chapek’s engagement with Scalise and other House GOP officials, a spokesman for Disney said in an email that the company speaks to lawmakers from both sides of the aisle. A spokeswoman for Scalise did not return repeated requests for comment.
The conversations this year are taking place as Republicans on Capitol Hill attack Disney and other companies as “woke” after they took stances on a range of political or cultural issues. The GOP has used the criticism of businesses in part to try to mobilize conservative voters ahead of the elections.
Some Disney executives and their advisors are concerned Republicans could ramp up their attacks on the company if the party wins control of the House, according to people familiar with the matter. They worry the GOP could pressure the company not to speak out on social issues, such as the Supreme Court ruling in June that overturned the right to an abortion enshrined in Roe v. Wade. After the decision, Disney said it would help pay for employees’ pregnancy-related care if they travel to a different state.
“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.
Though she would not comment directly on Disney, Antelo said that Republicans “can bring pressure on companies that they believe are too woke” if they retake the House majority starting in January.
While most major companies have been preparing for a potential power shift in Washington for months, Chapek has engaged directly with lawmakers poised to become a lot more powerful if the GOP retakes the House.
Scalise and Disney have had a close relationship for years. Scalise’s leadership PAC hosted a fundraising event at Disney World’s Polynesian Village in Florida, Axios reported. Scalise’s campaign has hosted previous fundraisers at Disney World, according to NOLA.com.
Bill Bailey, a senior Disney lobbyist, has donated $1,500 combined to Scalise’s leadership PAC and his reelection campaign since October 2021, according to Federal Election Commission records. Scalise, like all U.S….