The Politics of Retail: How Money Spent on Consumer Goods And Services Ends Up As Campaign Contributions

When you buy a light bulb at Home Depot or a pair of pants at Walmart, you probably don’t give much thought to the political leanings of said light bulb or said pants. Nevertheless, retail outlets, airlines, electronics manufactures, and record company executives do make campaign contributions, and when they do, we can look it up.

Did you know for example that JetBlue’s CEO David “Mortified” Neeleman is just in love with Joe Lieberman?

Or that the Home Depot has big hearts in its eyes for the Republican National Committee?

Do you know which of your government representatives are in the RIAA’s pocket?

Peeking Inside Home Depot And JetBlue

Let’s take a look at the political activities of something called the “HOME DEPOT INC. POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEE.” The committee is funded from contributions made by people like Home Depot’s former CEO “Big Bob” Nardelli, and their current CEO Frank “Li’l Frankie” Blake. The committee donates money to lots of campaigns, both republican and democrat, but let’s take a look a few candidates who got $10,000 or more during the past election cycle:

Hey, look! There’s Dennis Hastert, Trent Lott, and Rick Santorum. Neat! We’ve seen them on TV!

And then just to mix things up Home Depot also unloaded some cash thusly:


And, of course, they also passed funds along to other political action committees, who in turn dispersed them to various candidates. Here’s an example of an organization that Home Depot’s PAC donated to. It’s called “Pete’s Political Action Committee.” Hi, Pete! The Home Depot’s PAC also donated to other PACs called, “Bluegrass Committee”, “The Committee For The Preservation of Capitalism,” and something called “Every Republican Is Crucial.” Hm.

Isn’t this fun? It’s like looking up Home Depot’s skirt. Let’s see what David “Mortified” Neeleman is up to:

In the 2005-2006 election cycle, David personally donated $12,200 to something called “Friends of Joe Lieberman,” which, we assume, is an organization quite friendly to Joe Lieberman. David also dropped a cool $10,000 on “The Air Transport Association of America Political Action Committee.” Let’s take a look at that one:

The Air Transportation Association of America Political Action Committee funds a number of candidates, including Nancy Pelosi and Dennis Hastert. They also funnel their cash through other political action committees, some of which Home Depot supports as well. For example: There’s that Bluegrass Committee again, we wonder what they do… Oh. They give money exclusively to Republicans. Hm. Let’s take a look at another one. Here’s The Committee For The Preservation of Capitalism. Everyone loves capitalism! Right! Oh, whoops. That one gives money exclusively to Republicans, too. This is getting boring.

David also cut right to the chase by donating $10,000 to the National Republican Congressional Committee. It took much less Googling to figure out what that money was really for, so we appreciate that.

Steve Jobs made things easy to understand by simply donating $26,700 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Mommy, Where Do New Laws Come From?

Remember Edgar Bronfman, Jr., the CEO of Warner Music? He dropped a cool $5,000 on “The Recording Industry of America INC. Political Action Committee,” which funds lots of different candidates… hey! Barack Obama! Is that you!? It sure is! The RIAA donated money to several other names we recognize, including Hillary Clinton, Trent Lott (he’s sort of an all-purpose whore, isn’t he?), Dennis Hastert (another whore), Arlen Specter, Orrin Hatch, and Rahm Emmanuel.

Edgar wasn’t done yet, however, he “invested” an additional $10,000 in the Warner Music Group Corp PAC which doles out money to people like Mike Ferguson, a Republican from NJ who last year co-sponsored legislation that would enforce a “broadcast flag” for digital satellite audio receivers. “With exciting new digital audio devices on the market today and more on the horizon, Congress needs to streamline the deployment of digital services and protect the intellectual property rights of creators,” said Ferguson.”

In addition to the money Ferguson got from the Warner Music PAC ($1,500), and the $4,000 he picked up from the RIAA’s PAC, Ferguson pocketed a cool $1,000 from Bronfman personally. Thanks, Ed, for illustrating how this process works.

Why Am I Reading This?

You may be asking yourself, “This is political. Why do I care?” Because it’s not really political. At least not in the sense that we normal people generally think of it.

As a new article in the WSJ shows, the money goes where the legislative power is. Do we honestly think that Edgar Bronfman, Jr. is concerned about the people of New Jersey and the quality of their congressional representation? Does Ed even live in New Jersey?

As the WSJ shows, the corporate money is already shifting towards the new Democratic power base. As consumers, it’s probably a good idea to keep an eye on this sort of thing, and let them know that we’re paying attention.

We “hold it that a little rebellion, now and then, is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical.” Didn’t someone say that? —MEGHANN MARCO

(Photo: DoorFrame)


Edit Your Comment

  1. SOhp101 says:

    Where and how are you getting this info so we can look up other companies that we can know to avoid/support in the future?

    Never shopping at Home Depot again.

  2. Consumerist, are you encouraging me to rebel? Ya know, maybe just a little? Should we get a group started? How about we meet over at Capitol Hill around noon, kay?

  3. Squeezer99 says:

    this article seems to be more of a bash republican article then an article that sheds light on something new.

  4. Tyr_Anasazi says:

    Bribery isn’t new…

  5. B says:

    Rich white guys give money to Republicans? Stop the presses!

  6. Bourque77 says:

    @B: And just who do you think gives dems money?

    Rich people are paying off our elected officals? No way? Unless they are going to make a very lengthy list about companies and who they donate to this article was a waste of time. Who doesnt know that high ranking officals get campaign bribes?

  7. MisterE says:

    Just goes to show you America has the best politicians money can buy.

  8. hoyagrrrl says:

    While the RIAA may have donated to Barack Obama, his campaign refuses to take donations from Political Action Committees (PACs) and, in the past has returned them. I’m not sure if he’s returned this particular donation, but I’m just saying…

  9. mikyrok says:

    I am also curious to know where you came upon this information so I can do research on my own.

  10. saerra says:

    I’m curious too – how do you find this stuff?

    Also – what can we do? This has been something I’ve been thinking about for awhile – and it makes me feel physically ill (politicians *should* be in the business of representing that people and doing what’s in the best interest for the country as a whole – not for whatever industry pays them the most money!!!) — but I don’t know the solution?

    Any thoughts on trying to organize… something? I mean, it seems like having lots of money, or lots of people (or preferably both I guess) is the way to get the attention of politicians – and this is usually used by big companies/industries – is it possible to organize consumers into a lobbying force equal to what companies have?

  11. Trai_Dep says:

    Next time you hear, “block evil unions from participating politically,” keep this article in mind. America’s about more than the staggeringly wealthy white guys funding candidates.

  12. suckonthat says:

    There is a book that lists this stuff, though I can’t seem to remember the name. It’s something like “Blue Book” and it is a reference for every dime thousands of companies have ever donated to any political cause.

    It’s where I learned that a large percentage of my mother’s Curves’ fees go towards militant pro-life groups and Chick-fil-a profits fund Christian causes.

  13. ghostinmarble says:

    suckonthat: Found it. The Blue Pages.

  14. Trackback says:

    Human Rights Watch, in a new report, claims that Wal-Mart uses a variety of messages, legal and illegal, to suppress union activity and organizing.

  15. Michael says:

    “thusly” is not a word. Otherwise, this was a wonderful article.

  16. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    Hooray…buy a congressman today and pay no interest until 2008 with your Home Depot charge card. (Good on any bribe over $299).

  17. closer says:

    wow. every link on the original post links to instead of letting me go and search myself.

    you guys that desperate for more clicks and page views? c’mon. USER FIRST. that shit is irritating.

  18. Kromem says:

    These numbers are from 2005-2006.

    Not that good data when that’s considered.

    This was before the shift to a Dem congress was even really on the horizon. Rick Sanatorum was still morphing K-street to a Republican only club. So yeah, there was a skew toward that party for most large businesses.

    RIAA buying Dem is logical, as they traditionally skew in favor of Hollywood. And it’s easy to see that one of their big “buys” is Diane Fienstien, the CA rep that a few years back proposed the bill for installing a DRM chip into all computers to report illegal file downloads, and tampering of the chip would result in jail time.

    As for the comment about Obama not accepting PAC money, that could certainly be true for the presidential committee. During 2005-2006 though, he did seem to take money from the RIAA (though the amount was on par with what they gave to Hillary and the senators of nearly EVERY OTHER STATE).

    It’s a good topic, but I would have liked some more pertinent data, specifically considering the shift in power. The lining of pockets would have followed that shift, and it’d be nice to see how so.

  19. adamondi says:

    I hate all politicians equally. As illustrated by this post, they all are just money grubbers who will gladly act as puppets for the corporations that fund their campaigns. I just threw up in my mouth a little.

  20. pearlandopal says:

    Where this gets impossible for the average consumer to track is when companies own companies. Sure, Company A down the street doesn’t do politics, but did you know it’s owned by Company B? Of course, B is a subsidiary of Company C, and C buys lots of politicians. It’s rarely clear who owns who.