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Land O’Lakes withdraws support for GOP Rep. Steve King after boycott calls

Land O’Lakes butter. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

This post has been updated.

Land O’Lakes has withdrawn its support of a conservative lawmaker after the dairy company’s political donation churned up online cries for a boycott of its products. According to the Federal Election Commission, a political action committee for Land O’Lakes, the purveyor of grocery store staples such as butter, milk and cream, gave $2,500 to U.S. Rep. Steve King’s campaign on June 29. King is an Iowa Republican who is the member of Congress most openly affiliated with white nationalism. He has retweeted a Nazi sympathizer and has displayed a Confederate flag on his desk.

The news about Land O’ Lakes’s donation was amplified by prominent liberals: Former presidential candidate Howard Dean and former ThinkProgress editor in chief Judd Legum tweeted about it, as well as TV host Soledad O’Brien. Each of their tweets has hundreds of replies calling for a boycott.

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In the wake of the Tree of Life synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh, King’s white nationalist statements are once again under scrutiny. Fast Company reported that Intel, another company that donated to King, has dropped its support for his campaign.

After this and other outlets published stories about the calls for a boycott on Oct. 29, Land O’Lakes issued a statement withdrawing support on Oct. 30:

“The Land O’Lakes, Inc. PAC has traditionally contributed to lawmakers of both parties that represent the communities where our members and employees live and work and are also on committees that oversee policies that directly impact our farmer owners. We take our civic responsibility seriously, want our contributions to be a positive force for good and also seek to ensure that recipients of our contributions uphold our company’s values. On that basis, we have determined that our PAC will no longer support Rep. Steve King moving forward.”

The company’s CEO, Beth Ford, is the first openly gay female CEO of a Fortune 500 company, according to Fortune. She took on the role Aug. 1 after the donation was issued. Under the leadership of the former CEO, Chris Policinski, the company’s PAC donated twice as much to Republicans as to Democrats during the 2016 election cycle. The company has channeled 64 percent of its $363,500 in donations this year to Republicans, and the remainder to Democrats.

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It’s not the first time Land O’Lakes has found itself warding off controversy. The company has been criticized for its longtime logo, which depicts a Native American “maiden.” An investigation by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals claimed that cows for one of the company’s suppliers were abused and kept in deplorable conditions.

Other food companies have been subjected to boycotts for their political actions on both sides of the spectrum in recent years. Starbucks is a frequent target from conservatives for its nondenominational holiday cups. Republicans smashed their Keurig coffee makers into bits after the brand dropped its advertising with Fox News host Sean Hannity. Progressives abandoned pizza company Papa John’s after its founder used the n-word. Infowars host Alex Jones encouraged his far-right followers to boycott yogurt brand Chobani for its support of refugees and immigrants (the company later sued him). Democrats called for a boycott of burger chain In-N-Out after the company donated $25,000 to the California Republican Party. The list goes on and on.

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) has come under fire for saying that “We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies." (Video: Jenny Starrs/The Washington Post, Photo: Charlie Neibergall/The Washington Post)

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