President Trump is attending fundraisers Friday in the Hamptons, the high-dollar Long Island vacation destination of wealthy New Yorkers. While nearly everything Trump does meets with some controversy, these fundraisers attracted a disproportionate amount of negative attention after The Post reported that one would take place at the home of real estate developer Stephen Ross — who also serves as the chairman of lifestyle brands Equinox and SoulCycle. Both companies were targeted with boycotts, making Ross’s foray into Trump’s reelection orbit somewhat bumpier than he expected.
We’ve seen similar actions before. Companies and individuals who back Trump have repeatedly been lifted up for sanction among those who oppose the president and his policies. Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Tex.) published the names of individuals in his area who’d contributed the maximum allowable amount to Trump, receiving a backlash of his own in response.
And then there’s this tweet, from a California college student.
So here’s a list of companies supporting Trump’s re-election:— Costa (@BillyBobSanderz) August 8, 2019
- inn n out
- chick fil a
- Taco Bell
- Pizza Hut
- Olive Garden
- Waffle House
- Carl’s Jr.
So if you see me starting to get thinner and toned don’t ask me why.
In a later tweet, he added some other companies, including Applebee’s and Urban Outfitters. (Target, he said, supported “both liberal and conservative.”)
The initial tweet has been retweeted more than 180,000 times, as of writing. A separate tweet from model Chrissy Teigen has been retweeted more than 40,000 times.
“Heck my hecking face I’m about to get skinny as heck,” Teigen wrote, once you change versions of the f-word to versions of the word “heck.”
For consumer activists looking to put their money where their politics are, though, some bad news: The college student is broadly wrong about those companies.
Responding to questions, he tweeted a half-dozen links which he said served as sources for his data. Several of those links aren’t articulations of political spending at all; instead, they’re assessments of the politics of the company broadly.
That can be misleading. Chick-fil-A, for example, is well-known as a conservative company, closing on Sundays and earning national visibility after its chief executive disparaged same-sex marriage several years ago. The student offers a summary of spending compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics as evidence for his claim that the company is backing Trump’s reelection.
It looks like this.
Three things should jump out at you here. First, this is the 2016 cycle — in other words, data from the last presidential election. Second, it’s all federal candidates, not just Trump. Third, notice that the bar is entirely green. That means these are contributions from individuals, from people who likely work for Chick-fil-A and not from the company itself.
There has been one contribution from a Chick-fil-A employee in the 2020 cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. It was for $144.
Those data may be out of date, though. The FEC’s records show about $1,000 in contributions from four employees of the chain who live in Wyoming, California, South Carolina and Florida. One works in maintenance. Two are hostesses.
None, it’s safe to assume, represents the company overall.
Aha! you may be thinking. But there are contributions from people at the company to Trump! Well, yes. But the FEC’s data also show that five Starbucks employees gave about $800 to Trump. Is Starbucks therefore a pro-Trump company?
Some of the other companies included in the college student’s list appear to have been included because they appeared on a list of members of the food and beverage industry compiled by the CRP and to have given more to Republicans than Democrats. A political action committee associated with Wendy’s, for example, has given a bit over $34,000 so far this cycle, most to Republicans. It didn’t give to Trump in 2016.
Data for this cycle don’t include identified candidates, though members of the food and beverage industry have given $53,410 to Trump. That does not make the industry a big player in Trump’s fundraising, though. The automotive industry, for example, has given Trump more than $200,000 — and it’s the 20th most-generous industry.
Trump is also not the candidate to receive the most food-and-beverage money: Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) is.
Is it true that many of these companies have given more to Republicans than to Democrats as did TACO PAC, a political action committee organizing owners of Taco Bell franchises? Sure. But if you’re going to boycott companies whose PACs give more heavily to Republicans or whose leaders give mostly to Republicans, you might want to start learning how to farm and sew. Corporate America is historically and consistently politically conservative and more generous to Republicans.
After Stephen Ross’s participation in Friday’s fundraisers was made public, the companies targeted for boycotts quickly distanced themselves from him. They urgently drew a distinction between who they were and what Ross advocated. SoulCycle launched a program to encourage classes benefiting “social justice causes” even as Ross was hosting the president.
And that’s with a direct line from the company’s chairman to the president’s reelection. The connections made by the college student, where they even exist, are much, much looser.
So go ahead. Stuff your hecking face.