Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Money Talks 2

Yesterday, I received a forwarded email containing some of the data from the Center for Responsive Politics reported on last month in Is Money Speech? We Know it Talks.

The message contained two lists of consumer products companies, segregated according to the political party that received a majority of their contributions during the last election cycle. It suggests: we "might wish to be mindful of who we patronize relative to their ... donations."

Well, maybe. But it also strikes me as a passive-aggressive weenie sort of protest with a wishy-washy call to action that will send no clear messge to anyone about anything.

Let's take the taste test...

Which product would you boycott?

• Gallo
• Costco
• Hyatt
• Arby's
• Martha Stewart
• Estee Lauder

• Coors
• WalMart
• Marriott
• McDonald's
• K-Mart
• Amway

Let's see, not counting family expenditures over which I have no direct control, the total impact of my annual spending switch should amount to about, oh, $10. Take that, right-wing capitalist pig!

And the point I would have made with my boycotted dollars was? Well, if you support the candidates and parties you believe in, I won't support you, and of course the people who think like you won't support the companies who think like me. At that rate, we should have Social Security solvent, medical costs under control and Peace in Iraq in no time.

Actually, you couldn't get me to set foot in a WalMart or buy a six pack of Coors if they gave a million each to the Democrats and paved over Love Canal with a Paul Wellstone Peace Garden. Whereas Costco and Home Depot both seem to be well-run, humane companies, regardless of where they send their contributions. For many of the companies on the list below, their corporate nature is already abundantly clear, as is the quality of their products, and I spend my money accordingly — largely with independent retailers.

If we truly want to defeat dumb political ideas, expose policies that disproportionately favor certain corporate interests and seek to limit the influence of money in elections, let's do it directly and courageously. Let's engage the people with whom we disagree politically while respecting their right to disagree with us. And if these corporations happen to have crappy products and exploitive employee relations and monopolistic power over their suppliers, let them know how that affects our behavior as consumers. Meanwhile, even monopolistic, big box retailers and brewers of tasteless beer have a right to support candidates of their choice.

For the record, here are the lists from the circulating email (not verified by me against the CRP reports), rearranged by size of contribution, for companies directing 80% or more to one party.

Which product would you choose?

• Estee Lauder, $448K, 95%
• Gallo Winery, $337K, 95%
• Price Club/Costco, $225K, 99%
• Hyatt Corporation, $187K, 80%
• Olan Mills (Portrait Studios) $175K, 99%
• Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, $153K, 99%
• Guess Inc., $145K, 98%
• Triarc Companies (Arby's, T.J. Cinnamon's, Pasta Connections), $112K,
• Calvin Klein, $78K, 100%
• Liz Claiborne, Inc., $34K
• Levi Straus, $26K, 97%
• Magla Products (Stanley tools, Mr. Clean), $22K, 100%

• Brown-Forman Corp. (Southern Comfort, Jack Daniels, Bushmills, Korbel, Lennox China, Dansk, Gorham Silver), $644, 80%
• Outback Steakhouse , $641K, 95%
• WalMart, $467K, 97%
• K-Mart, $524K, 86%
• Amway, $391K, 100%
• Pilgrim's Pride Corp. (chicken), $366K, 100
• Mariott International, $323K, 81%
• Hallmark Cards, $319K, 92%
• Home Depot, $298K, 89%
• Kohler Co. (plumbing fixtures), $283K, 100%
• 3M Co., $281K, 87%
• Waffle House, $279K, 100%
• Circuit City Stores, $261K, 95%
• Procter & Gamble, $243K, 79%
• Brinker International(Maggiano's, Brinker Cafe, Chili's, On the Border, Macaroni Grill, Crazymel's, Corner Baker, EatZis), $242K, 83%
• B.F. Goodrich, $215K, 97%
• McDonald's Corp., $197K, 86%
• Coors, $174K, 92%
• Tricon Global Restaurants (KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell), $133K, 87%
• Darden Restaurants (Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Smokey Bones, Bahama Breeze),$121K, 89%


Blogger Charlie Quimby said...

I resisted adding above a very practical objection I have to economic boycotts based on political preference—as opposed to things like employment practices, loose environmental standards or unsafe products. When it comes right down to a face-off between the Progs and the Cons, I fear the conservatives would do a better job of sticking to the party line.

5:35 PM  

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