Source: Netflix CEO intended to boost charter schools in donations to anti-abortion legislators

Posted at 8:08 AM, Jun 04, 2019

Netflix has taken a stance against a restrictive abortion bill in Georgia. But its CEO Reed Hastings has been donating to lawmakers who passed one of the country's most controversial abortion laws.

Over the last 10 months, Hastings donated $143,000 to 73 Republicans who voted for a Missouri abortion ban. And in November, Hastings donated $2,600, the maximum donation amount, to Missouri Governor Mike Parson, who signed a bill on May 24 prohibiting abortions after eight weeks of pregnancy.

A newsletter, Popular Information , first reported the publicly available data through the Missouri Ethics Commission.

The recent trend of donating to Missouri Republicans is unusual for Hastings, who has a pattern of donating to Democrats over the past two decades. He's donated to Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John Kerry, as well as to larger Democratic committees. Over the past 10 months, Hastings also donated $10,700 to various Missouri Democrats.

A source close to Hastings told CNN Business that Netflix's CEO donated the money for education purposes.

"All of these personal donations from Reed, on both sides of the aisle, were made in support of a specific piece of legislation aimed at improving the availability and quality of charter schools in Missouri," said the source. "Reed's private support of educational causes is well known and these personal donations stem directly from that."

Missouri legislators were evaluating House Bill 581, sponsored by Representative Rebecca Roeber, a Republican. A very similar bill was also circulating in the Senate. Hastings gave the maximum donation, $2,600, to Roeber two times last year to support her after the primary and general elections. The bill would have increased perks for charter schools, but it ultimately failed.

Hastings' last contribution to Missouri politicians was in February, according to the Missouri Ethics Commission. The bill was dropped from the calendar by May. Hastings declined to comment for this article.

In addition to Hastings' support for the charter school bill, Netflix also took up a particular interest in Missouri. The company hired a lobbying firm a few months ago to work in Missouri, noted Dan Auble, senior researcher with the Center for Responsive Politics.

"They are undertaking a concerted campaign here," he said, "Whatever it is that Hastings and Netflix are trying to get done — or stop — in Missouri it is clear they will have the ear of legislators to make their case."

That firm was hired by Netflix to lobby on behalf of "all legislation and issues relating to the telecommunications industry," according to a document filed in March with the Missouri Ethics Commission.

During the most recent legislative session, the state senate briefly considered a bill that would have extended video service provider fees to non-cable TV companies, such as Netflix. That bill did not pass.

CNN Business asked the source whether Hastings regrets or is rethinking the donations now that he is aware of the lawmakers' role in the abortion legislation; the person said they had nothing further to share on that.

Netflix came out against a similar abortion law passed in Georgia in a statement on Tuesday .

"We have many women working on productions in Georgia, whose rights, along with millions of others, will be severely restricted by this law ... Should it ever come into effect, we'd rethink our entire investment in Georgia," the company said.

"Unfortunately for Netflix, Missouri may be the first state without any abortion clinic at all," said David Robertson, University of Missouri-St. Louis' political science department chair. "So if they're aiming to get out of Georgia and move into a place with less controversial abortion regulations, they made a bad choice."