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Some Put Money Where Their Politics Are

By Jeffrey Marcus
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, December 19, 2004; Page A08

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.

This red-blue distinction is based exclusively on the political donations of businesses' political action committees or giving by corporate officers and employees. Corporations cannot donate directly.

Mega-retailer Wal-Mart is a "red" store, channeling 80 percent of its more than $2 million in contributions to GOP candidates, according to BuyBlue.org. Other "red" firms include Circuit City, Outback Steakhouse and Safeway. But bulk retailer Costco is "blue." The corporation funneled more than $200,000 to Democratic candidates. Barnes & Noble, Starbucks and J.Crew are also listed as Democratic supporters by BuyBlue.org.

The Web sites do not consider a company's labor practices, environmental record or other positions. "If we've ID'd someone as blue or red, that's what they are," says Ture, a writer and retired EPA employee in Northern California who coordinates research for BuyBlue.org.

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.

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