Chances are you work for a company that, unbeknown to you, is screwing around in the political system. The infamous “too big to fail” financial giants – Goldman Sachs, Citigroup and JP Morgan Chase for example – are certainly major political contributors with very active lobbyists, yet many of us are unaware that the businesses we support with our labor or patronage also meddle in the political arena. Disturbingly, their activism often extends beyond those few policies relevant to their business interest.
Something about major companies involving themselves in politics rubs me the wrong way. This is the case for both parties. I strongly dislike when my everyday decisions to go out to eat or buy groceries have political weight. Nothing kills my appetite more than having to contemplate which of our nations scurvy politicians will benefit from today’s purchases.
It would seem to me that a decision by a business to support either major party would alienate roughly half of it’s would-be customers. I know democrats, liberals and progressives who intentionally avoid any businesses that donate to Republicans. Likewise, I imagine there are many Republicans who would happily go elsewhere if they knew their purchases would support the Democratic Party.
Apparently though, this sort of consumer choosiness has little effect. The lack of publicity of who donates to who and the inconvenience of researching it, keeps many Americans from worrying about it. Most Americans express a distaste for the disproportionate influence of big business on government, yet few consumers are willing to adjust their shopping habits in response. Apparently even donating to controversial candidates or causes is not likely to hurt profits if it is not given too much publicity. One Liberal jest-fully told me “It’s just easier to just assume all my money goes to Mitt Romney since he and the Koch brothers own half the supermarket’s products, anyway.” To help sort out the confusion I did a couple quick internet searches:
I found that big Republican Donors include:
AT&T, UPS, Target, Walmart, Pfizer, FedEx, Wells Fargo, Anheuser–Busch, Bissell, Amway, Office Depot, Domino’s Pizza, Cracker Barrel, Verizon Wireless, General Motors, Ford, Enterprise Car rental, KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, Outback Steakhouse, Maggiano’s, Brinker Cafe, Chili’s, On the Border, Macaroni Grill, Crazymel’s, Corner Baker, Holiday Inns while, Southern Comfort, Jack Daniels, Bushmills, Korbel wines, Lenox China, Dansk and Gorham Silver
Companies with a history of supporting Democrats include:
Microsoft, Costco, HBO, MTV, NBC, Hyatt Corporation, Sonic Corporation, Olan Mills, Martha Stewart Living and Omnimedia.
Of course much of the business community plays both sides of the aisle. JP Morgan Chase and Comcast have donated to both parties. This chart documents donations major companies have made to both the Democratic and Republican governors associations.
Business lobbying organizations that seek political favors are willing to switch sides or simply support whichever candidate seems most likely to win. This may account for the huge donations Obama received from the financial sector in 2008. Of course what is most troubling about this is the concern that a political system flowing with big-business money is likely to intervene in the economy in ways favorable to the investors and CEO’s of large corporations and against the interests of the general population. Thus our economic system can be more accurately described as a crony corporatism than anything else. We have become accustomed to bailouts, government-subsidized industries and war profiteering. I am often frustrated with both of our political parties, which I find all to often to be more the same than different. Perhaps this sameness is largely due to the influence corporate money has on them. Maybe American consumers should be a little more concerned about where their money ends up.
(Sources I used include: http://www.linkedin.com/groups/Who-Donates-Whom-From-my-3227636.S.93273848 and http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2009/09/27/partisan-political-contributions-by-u-s-companies/)
Editor’s note, I stumbled onto this piece, which I wrote during the buildup to the 2012 election, nearly a year ago. I found it worth sharing, but It may be the case that the political loyalties of the some of the companies in question have shifted since it was written, as these things are always shifting. Of note, I tend to find both parties to be sources of frustration, more than anything else.