Want to stop enriching people whose politics you hate? There’s an app for that.


The BuyPartisan app lets shoppers scan a barcode of a product and see where the parent company makes its political contributions.

Bet the last time you were sipping Campbell’s soup or popping Pringles chips it never occurred to you that your eating habits could be political.

But every product has a parent company, and most major corporations make political contributions. Are you a staunch Republican who would never pull the Democratic lever? Chances are some of your purchases at the grocery store go toward helping a Democratic candidate. Die-hard Democrat? Ditto for you.

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993. View Archive

Never make that mistake again!

Matthew Colbert, a former campaign and Capitol Hill staffer, has built an app for smartphones that allows users to scan the barcode of products in the grocery store and immediately find out which political party the company and its employees support. (Any relation to Stephen Colbert, who also shares an interest in money in politics? This Colbert played coy and curiously declined to answer, though in March he told the Web site UberStories that “I’ve been told we’re distant cousins.”)

Colbert told the Loop he developed the BuyPartisan app to give consumers more knowledge about how they spend their money. For some, it may translate to not buying a certain cereal anymore, while for others it could be simply a conversation starter, Colbert said. But he hopes that all users will appreciate having at their fingertips an awareness that a fraction of their grocery bill goes to political contributions.

The app, based on data from the Center for Responsive Politics, the Sunlight Foundation and the National Institute on Money in State Politics, is the first rollout from Colbert’s new company, Spend Consciously. Its tagline: “Wouldn’t it be great if you could spend how you believed?”

The goal of the company, Colbert said, is to make “every day Election Day” through “spending choices.”

Here at the Loop, we conveniently had a bottle of hand lotion on our desk. A quick scan of the barcode told us that the product is made by a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, which overall gave 49 percent to Republicans and 33 percent to Democrats. Its employees are pretty split down the middle, but the company’s board of directors skewed the results because 74 percent support GOP candidates.

Now the choice is yours.

This alien had a big fan

Robin Williams’s untimely death shocked and saddened fans everywhere, but it seems to have had an especially profound impact on one member of Congress.

Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), who represents the district where the characters from “Mork and Mindy” — the TV show that introduced Williams to the world — lived, paid a special tribute Monday night to his alien constituent.

With his son, C.J., in tow, Polis visited the Boulder home where Mork from the planet Ork lived with roommate Mindy.

Polis and son made a makeshift shrine with a handwritten sign, flowers and a photo of Williams. Moreover, the congressman did so dressed as Mork.

Polis documented it all on Twitter, posting a series of tweets with pictures. In one he wrote, “Paying my respects to #mork, most famous fictional #boulder resident Thank you for making us laugh, Robin Williams.” In another, he simply wrote, “Nanu nanu.”

A lame duck soars

Retiring House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-Calif.) may be a lame duck, but he hasn’t let that ground him. McKeon returned Tuesday morning from a 10-day — was going to be 12-day, but the House recessed later than expected — mission to find facts and meet with officials in Asia.

The congressional delegation (codel), which included committee members Steve Palazzo (R-Miss.), Mike D. Rogers (R-Ala.), Mike McIntyre (D-N.C.) and Del. Madeleine Bordallo (D-Guam), plus some spouses, took a military jet and stopped in China, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan for what some are calling the chairman’s “retirement tour.”

We hear that McKeon had hoped to meet with senior ministers and visit a Chinese aircraft carrier, but the annoyingly bellicose commies were upset that his next stop was Taiwan, so they nixed those plans. The delegation instead met with McKeon’s Chinese counterpart, Madame Fui Ling.

So is this the chairman’s swan song tour? Not at all. We’re hearing he’s going to be making a few more trips. Better pack them in before Election Day, when House rules frown on further foreign jaunts.

Dissent in the hoods

Some folks at the Commerce Department were upset by a notice last month that their “escape hoods,” a kind of gas mask to help you breathe while escaping a fire or gas attack, are being phased out.

The notice, sent to about 170 employees of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration who work at the department’s downtown headquarters, said that the “decision to purchase and deploy escape hoods was made shortly after 9/11 by department leadership for various reasons.” One reason was the building’s location just a couple of blocks from the White House.

“The program was discontinued after it was determined that any benefit they might offer did not justify the significant cost of purchasing and replacing them,” the notice said. The hoods — which cost about $160 each — contain carbon filters that wear out and have to be replaced after about five years.

“Therefore, expired hoods should be disposed of properly,” the notice said, “and those not expired may remain in place until expired.”

There is no department-wide policy on the hoods, and we hear most agencies within the department have already phased out the program.

That challenge is on ice

We bet wrong.

As we wrote Tuesday, we thought President Obama would rise to the video challenge by Ethel Kennedy, the 86-year-old widow of Robert F. Kennedy, to dump a bucket of ice water over his head as part of the Ice Bucket Challenge to help raise money and awareness about amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s disease.

The elder Kennedy and her family doused themselves in ice water at their compound on Cape Cod.

But Obama won’t be doing the same. The White House told Boston Globe reporter Matt Viser that “the President appreciates Mrs. Kennedy thinking of him for the challenge, though his contribution to this effort will be monetary. The president will be making a donation to an ALS charity this week.”

— With Colby Itkowitz

Twitter: @KamenInTheLoop, @ColbyItkowitz

Colby Itkowitz is a national reporter for In The Loop.
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