Is There Such a Thing as a Partisan Corporation?
Two pro-Democratic sites — BuyBlue.org and ChoosetheBlue.com — think so, and they’re discouraging fellow partisans from patronizing stores whose campaign contributions tilt primarily toward the opposition:
Raven Brooks is making his Christmas list, but he is less concerned with what to buy than where to shop.
Brooks is one of a small group of frustrated Democrats who met while commiserating online after President Bush defeated Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.). Disenchanted and desperate for a voice, they started BuyBlue.org. The two-week-old Web site lists the political contributions of major companies to encourage people to shop at stores and buy products from businesses that supported Democratic candidates.
“If you are a progressive or a liberal, you won’t be represented adequately by this administration, or this Congress,” Martha Ture, a co-founder of BuyBlue.org, said. As for what Democrats do have, she said, “We have our wallets.”
Ann Duvall and her husband, Bill, had the same idea. The semi-retired Silicon Valley couple started ChoosetheBlue.com. The bare-bones Web site lists companies and urges people to vote with their pocketbooks when they buy gifts, shop for groceries or fill up at the gas station.
“We wanted to have our voices heard, and felt that one way of doing that was to direct our spending towards companies who support . . . the candidates and issues in which we believe,” Ann Duvall writes on the Web site.
Though they’re all well-intentioned, their logic has problems, according to experts:
Alex Knott, political editor at the Center for Public Integrity, a nonpartisan watchdog group in Washington, warned that the information “may not be as telling as they think it is.” Knott said corporate America’s political spending is foremost a business decision. “Donations are not actually given on a partisan level,” he said. “Most of the time, it’s incumbent versus non-incumbent.”
Often, major corporate donors give to both parties to hedge their bets. The Center for Public Integrity found that four of the top 10 contributors to Bush and Kerry were the same.
“A lot of corporate givers are very pragmatic,” said Lawrence M. Noble, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics. “They want to make sure they can get access.”
The Center for Responsive Politics runs Opensecrets.org, the primary source of data for both BuyBlue.org and ChoosetheBlue.com, but it does not endorse the message of either Web site.
Noble said, “It’s an interesting use of the data.”
As a former analyst in the lobbying division of a major Fortune 500 company, I can personally attest to these assessments. Nothing frightens a corporation like the thought of having their interests on dangerous political ground. As such, they take every precaution to ensure that they have influence, which means that their loyalties either easily switch or remain balanced. That particular corporations are donating more to the Republican Party than to the Democratic Party right now says more about GOP dominance in national politics than about their partisan preferences.
Sure, there are certain corporations like Coors that, by virtue of their history and recognizable leadership, probably have more leanings than their counterparts. But, on average, corporations don’t really care who they give to — so long as their interests are protected or advanced. Indeed, on many occasions, they’re quite happy to donate to both parties as a way of hedging their bets. They start tilting one way when it becomes counterproductive to distribute equally, since you can normally get a pretty good idea of who’s favored to win, especially when incumbents are involved.