Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Are you an Applebee's Republican or a Chipotle Democrat? How to vote with your dinner dollar

Posted By on Tue, Feb 9, 2016 at 12:40 PM

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Sometimes we may wish it weren't true, but the personal is political. Every time you order a pizza or scarf down a burrito, you are not only supporting that cheese-stuffed crust or righteous guacamole, you're also voting with your dollar — that is, your dollars are enriching a corporation and, often, an individual who is making political contributions with your money.

Noting that every year, corporations push "thousands, sometimes millions, of dollars toward political causes, groups and candidates," everything-edible website Eater used data from Federal Election Commission reports and the Center for Responsive Politics covering 2011 through 2014 to see "how much money America’s biggest restaurant chains have given to Republicans and how much they've given to Democrats." Check out their findings if you want to make sure your lunch money goes to a company that aligns with your values.

People at 14 leading restaurant chains, from McDonald's to Wendy’s, collectively contributed nearly $6 million to political groups between 2011 and 2014. Since companies can't contribute to federal elections directly, a lot of the money comes from company-sponsored political action committees (PACs), which let company leaders and stakeholders pool financial resources into a special account. Usually, a board decides how to distribute it. Individual employees and CEOs, the people representing a company and responsible for carrying out its values, can also make political donations on their own.

The TL;DR of it all is: "When it comes to overall contributions, most companies donate almost exclusively to Republicans, with a couple exceptions." 

But some of the findings may surprise you. Everyone knows Papa John's CEO John Schnatter is practically a GOP stakeholder, and that Chick-fil-A – both the company and CEO Dan Cathy – is firmly in the evangelical camp on social issues. And it's not surprising to learn that 100 percent of the (rather small) amount of dollars contributed by Chipotle went to Democrats. But who'da thunk Dunkin' Donuts' contributions were almost perfectly balanced between GOP and Dems? Or that Yum Brands, with their faux-hipster youth focus (Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, KFC) went 90 percent Republican in their donations? Think twice about that Quesalupa purchase, if you care about immigration reform and reproductive rights.

Yum Brands also scraped up $188,769 of individual employee donations and a shocking 93 percent of that money went Republican. Given the fact that many of those donors are minimum-wage employees and the GOP's hostile stance on raising that wage, one can only presume there's some serious cognitive dissonance going on there.

However, CEO contributions were the most surprising vertical. For instance: While locally based Darden Restaurants (Olive Garden) went 63 percent GOP/37 percent Dem in $952,000 of PAC contributions and 73 percent GOP/27 percent Dem in $100,385 of employee contributions, the CEO's personal contributions were 100 percent Democrat: $73,900. So if you just can't quit those endless breadsticks, at least you've got some political wiggle room.

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