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)