California’s Democratic Party chairman nearly launched a food fight Wednesday when he called for a boycott of In-N-Out Burger over a contribution the popular fast-food chain made to the state Republican Party.
Eric Bauman, chair of the California Democratic Party, tweeted Wednesday:
“Et tu In-N-Out? Tens of thousands of dollars donated to the California Republican Party . . . it’s time to #BoycottInNOut — let Trump and his cronies support these creeps . . . perhaps animal style!”
Democrats swiftly dialed back Bauman’s call for people to stop eating at the chain’s 330-plus locations, which attract a passionate following across six states with their simple burgers-fries-and-shakes approach and “secret menu” (from which customers can order their burgers “animal style.”)
A spokesman for the California Democrats said the party will not pursue the boycott.
“It was his personal tweet and doesn’t reflect party policy,” spokesman John Vigna said in an interview. “That said, he is giving force to a sentiment many people feel right now. Which is that, in this era, with the stakes so high, engaging in things like personal boycotts is a way for people to effect change.”
Bauman was not available for comment.
One powerful California Democrat came to In-N-Out’s defense.
“For the record, at least In-N-Out pays their workers living wage, as employees. More than we can say about countless political donors on both sides,” tweeted state Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, whose Twitter site describes her as a progressive Democrat.
Calls for boycotts have received heightened attention in the Trump era, further evidence of the nation’s political polarization. President Trump urged fans to boycott National Football League games last year if players continued to kneel during the national anthem. Progressives have called for boycotts of anything Trump, including daughter Ivanka Trump’s fashion brand, which eventually was shut down.
Starbucks, Uber and even Amazon.com (whose chief executive, Jeffrey P. Bezos, owns The Washington Post) have been the subjects of calls for boycotts.
In-N-Out Burger made contributions to Republicans and to Democratic-leaning political groups during the 2017-18 election cycle, according to data filed with the California secretary of state and supplied by In-N-Out.
The California Republican Party received $30,000 from In-N-Out’s political committee, while Californians for Jobs and a Strong Economy, a group that supports Democratic candidates, received a total of $60,000 in two donations from In-N-Out.
California Republican Party Chairman Jim Brulte released a statement after Bauman’s tweet, saying: “I have no idea what possessed the California Democrat Party chairman to attack a California institution like In-N-Out, especially considering the fact that the organization gave more money to Democrats than Republicans recently. I’m sure he got many angry phone calls from Democrats who have benefited from In-N-Out’s generosity, and that’s why he not only went dark following the tweet, but forced the party’s spokesperson to distance the party from the comments.”
In a statement, In-N-Out Burger Executive Vice President Arnie Wensinger said: “In 2018, In-N-Out Burger has made equal contributions to both Democratic and Republican Political Action Committees in the State of California. For years, In-N-Out Burger has supported lawmakers who, regardless of political affiliation, promote policies that strengthen California and allow us to continue operating with the values of providing strong pay and great benefits for our Associates.”
“While it is unfortunate that our contributions to support both political parties in California has caused concern with some groups,” Wensinger added, “we believe that bipartisan support is a fair and consistent approach that best serves the interests of our company and all of our customers.”
As the burger business has exploded in recent years with regional and national chains including Shake Shack, Five Guys and BGR the Burger Joint, In-N-Out has held its own by sticking to basics.
In-N-Out is a third-generation, family-owned California institution known for its rabidly loyal customer base. The company was started in 1948 by Harry and Esther Snyder in Baldwin Park, Calif., as a small drive-through burger outlet.
In-N-Out has kept its menu relatively simple, highlighting its french fries, burgers, cheeseburgers and shakes while other fast-food chains have expanded into chicken nuggets, fish, salads and breakfast. The restaurants are known for their arrow logo out front and their “secret menu” that allows patrons to customize their orders.
The firm is now run by the Snyders’ 36-year-old granddaughter, Lynsi Snyder, who is the company’s president. Forbes estimates that Snyder is a billionaire.
Snyder has expanded the number of In-N-Out locations since becoming president in 2010, moving the chain beyond its southwestern roots and into Oregon, Texas and, soon, Colorado.