How would you react if we told you that popular brands such as Disney, Pepsi, and Gap were funding the Trump agenda? That your hard-earned money was going to support Steve Bannon’s dreamed of “deconstruction of the administrative state” which would wipe away a whole host of public protections?
Surprised? Upset? Angry?
Sorry, but it’s true. You see, it turns out that Disney, Pepsi, and Gap all fund Washington’s most powerful lobbying group, a group that is the driving force behind much of the Trump/GOP agenda.
Which group is that? The U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
The Chamber, backed by nearly $275 million in corporate money, is Washington’s proverbial 800 pound gorilla. On issues as diverse as climate, clean air, clean water, fossil fuel production and pipelines, worker safety, financial regulation, net neutrality, healthcare, overtime pay, and deregulation in general, Trump and the GOP are ripping entire pages from the Chamber’s playbook.
Here at Public Citizen’s Chamber Watch project, we wanted to know which companies were funding the Chamber/Trump agenda, and we were particularly interested to know if companies that have made public commitments on climate, sustainability, clean water, and public health were funding the Chamber despite its long history of anti-climate, anti-environmental, pro-tobacco advocacy.
Based on our review of publicly-available information as well as conversations with company officials, we learned that many companies that have – at least on paper – good policies on climate, sustainability, and/or public health are still funding the Chamber.
And Disney, Pepsi, and Gap are among these companies.
Today, a diverse coalition of more than 50 groups in more than a dozen countries asks Disney, Gap, and Pepsi to stop funding a trade association that works against the environmental and public health policies these corporations claim to support. After all, how can we take these companies’ commitments on climate and public health seriously when they financially support an organization that is one of the lead plaintiffs against the Clean Power Plan, constantly lobbies for the fossil fuel industry, and lobbies in dozens of countries against anti-smoking laws and regulations?
Already, companies such as Apple and Pacific Gas & Electric have left the Chamber due to the Chamber’s anti-climate advocacy, and CVS left as a result of the Chamber’s pro-tobacco work. It is time for Disney, Pepsi, and Gap to do the same. To continue to fund the Chamber would be to render meaningless the positive steps these companies have taken on climate and/or tobacco.
What’s more, continued support of the Chamber poses a significant reputational risk to these companies, one that should concern their shareholders. Not only does membership in the Chamber render them complicit in the Chamber’s anti-climate and pro-tobacco advocacy, it also associates them with an explicitly partisan group.
In 2016, the Chamber formed an alliance with leading Republican luminaries to “Save the Senate” for the GOP. The Chamber ultimately wound up spending almost $30 million in dark money on congressional races, more than any other group that doesn’t disclose its donors. All of this money benefited Republican candidates.
Like all companies, Disney, Pepsi, and Gap have ideologically diverse customer bases, and presumably many of their customers would be angry to learn that companies they patronize are supporting such a partisan group. In an era when more and more consumers are linking their purchasing decisions to a company’s political activities, it is especially risky for brands like Disney, Pepsi, and Gap to associate themselves with a hyper-partisan group such as the Chamber that is one of the architects of the Trump agenda.
The Chamber’s agenda is bad for both public health and the health of the planet and its secret money partisan political spending is bad for the health of a transparent democracy. The time has come for Disney, Pepsi, and Gap to drop the Chamber.