Sunday, October 19, 2008

Of Buying and Elections

GoodGuide and the Center for Responsive Politics have turned corporate political contribution data into a great little brand comparison site.

They break things down by sector and show us which companies give to Democrats and which companies give to Republicans.

Take the Retail Sales sector, for example. Office Depot and Target give more money to Republicans, and Costco gives more to Democrats. In the Food and Beverage sector, none of the companies lean Democrat. Kellogg's gives almost exactly equally to both parties, and Heinz (ketchup, Mrs. John Kerry, etc.) contributes three times more to Republicans than Democrats.

It's fascinating and surprising and definitely worth a look. I couldn't help but scroll through every single sector the first time I visited the site.

But I do have a complaint. A feature request. Or, as Wiley has called every feature request I've ever made on any of the projects on which we've ever worked together, a totally unreasonable demand.

I want to know which companies give the least money to politicians and political parties, for I think the most socially and environmentally responsible thing a company can do when it comes to government is to keep their money away from the politicians.

I worry about the American political economy. A company gives a big gift to a politician. The politician wins his election. He realizes how helpful the contribution was. He sees that he has another campaign coming up in 2 or 4 or 6 years. So he lets that company's economic interests rise high on his list of priorities. And he does what he needs to do to secure future campaign money.

Surely it's not that simple. And maybe it's unfair to call a campaign contribution an act of corruption. But I'd rather support a business that doesn't try to influence policy with money. So, while I'm excited to know which companies are Democrats and which are Republicans, I would be more excited to know which companies ask our leaders to act independently.

Update (Oct 21, 10am): CEO Eric Schmidt is rooting for Obama, but it looks like Google will remain neutral. I think that's a legitimate way to go.

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