(NEW YORK) — Whether he wanted to be or not, Dan Cathy, the Bible-quoting president and chief operating officer of Chick-fil-A, has become a household name. So has his stance on same-sex marriage.
What people might not realize is the extent to which Chick-fil-A has funded organizations with radically anti-gay messages through its charitable arm, the WinShape Foundation, which was created by Chick-fil-A founder and chairman S. Truett Cathy in 1984. According to a July report from Equality Matters, a gay rights organization, the foundation donated nearly $2 million in 2010 to groups such as the Marriage & Family Foundation, the Family Research Council and Exodus International, which has helped “men and women surrender their sexual struggles to the Lordship of Jesus Christ” since 1976.
But Chick-fil-A isn’t the only company with a conservative bent. Conservative activists are responsible for some of the products you use in your home. Koch Industries, for example, which manufactures products like Angel Soft toilet paper, Brawny Paper towels and Dixie cups plans to donate about $400 million to conservative groups such as the National Rifle Association, Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform, the National Right to Life Committee, Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition, and the American Future Fund, Politico reported.
The founders of Koch Industries, brothers David and Charles Koch, have helped bankroll numerous Tea Party candidates through their advocacy group, Americans for Prosperity.
Meanwhile, Costco co-founder and chairman Jeffrey H. Brotman gave $77,550 in political contributions to Democrats and only $15,625 to Republicans. An additional $63,700 went to special interest groups, according to Newsmeat.org, which tracks donor spending.
Most people aren’t aware of the extent to which their favorite companies play partisan politics, said Kate Coyne-McCoy, executive director of Coalition for Accountability in Political Spending (CAPS), a bipartisan organization dedicated to curbing the role of corporate spending in elections. What’s more, public companies aren’t obligated to disclose their political spending.
“Soon America will be inundated with TV ads that will be nasty and vitriolic,” she said. “We won’t know who’s paying for what. It’s like campaigns are auctions, not elections, and we won’t know which politicians are being bought by whom.”
So what other companies or CEOS have strong political or ideological beliefs?
While Chick-fil-A has been gaining notoriety among those opposed to same-sex marriage, Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos is the new poster boy for the pro-gay marriage set. On July 27, Bezos and his wife, MacKenzie, pledged $2.5 million to Washington United for Marriage (WUM), Washington state’s coalition of organizations, congregations, unions and businesses working together to defend civil marriage for same-sex couples. To that end, Microsoft founder Bill Gates and CEO Steve Ballmer each donated $100,000 to the cause.
Forever 21 founder Do Won Chang, along with his wife, Jin Sook, is a devout Christian who performs missionary work around the globe and claims the Bible is his favorite book. Chang, who came to the United States from South Korea in 1981, also co-runs the Chang 21 Foundation, which donates to churches and faith-based organizations, according to The Los Angeles Times. And every Forever 21 shopping bag comes with a Bible verse (John 3:16) stamped on the bottom: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
On Thursday, Fred Karger, an LGBT rights activist, announced a world-wide boycott against Amway, the conservative direct-sales monolith. Karger obtained the tax records of Amway president and owner Doug DeVos and discovered that DeVos had donated $500,000 to the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) Education Fund, according to the Michigan Business Review. NOM was created five years ago to pass Proposition 8 in California, a constitutional amendment to prohibit same sex marriage. Karger told rawstory.com that DeVos’ “appears to be the largest family donation to NOM in its history.”
Dr. Bronner’s Magic “All-One” Products
The debate over genetically modified organisms (GMOs) has been raging in grocery stores across the country. Now it’s headed to California, where voters will get to decide if many food products using GMOs are required to label them as such. The November ballot initiative is known as “The California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act,” or Proposition 37. If 37 is passed, not only will there be labeling requirements, but these foods will also be forbidden from labeling or advertising themselves as “natural.” Those supporting the initiative include Dr. Bronner’s, which has donated $290,000 to pro-37 groups; Nature’s Path Food USA, ($250,709) and Amy’s Kitchen ($25,000). The company says it does not use GMOs.
Those on the other end of the spectrum — that is, those who argue that, if passed, Prop 37 would increase food prices, encourage frivolous lawsuits and do nothing to protect the public’s well-being — include Pepsi, which has contributed $90,220 to efforts to oppose the Prop 37; Nestle ($61,471); and Coca-Cola ($61,209), according to Voters Edge, a nonpartisan guide to ballot measures.
Gold’s Gym International
Gold’s is a subsidiary of TRT Holdings, a private Texas corporation that also owns Omni Hotels and Tana Exploration, an oil and gas exploration firm. Its owner, CEO and president, Robert Rowling, has donated more than $1 million to American Crossroads, which was started by GOP political strategists Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie, and the super PAC that supports Mitt Romney, Restore Our Future, according to opensecrets.org.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Erin McClam, CNN
Ivaylo Vezenkov and Lauren del Valle, CNN
Paul Menser, BizMojo Idaho