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Hiding Donations in Plain Sight: Do You Know What Your Favorite Company Does with The Money You Give Them?

Have you thought of what political campaigns you may be funding when you purchase products from a company?

*Editor's Note* What follows is political in nature. There are some facts reported on here, as well as some opinion. Use this information as you will.

You likely have heard the term ‘vote with your wallet' several times, especially in our current politically polarized environment. People routinely call to boycott companies because they disagree with the political or even personal opinions of the owners or executives controlling the company.

This is an extremely effective tool used to influence corporate behavior. This tactic has become exponentially more powerful because of social media. Now corporations do not need to worry about a few news stories that may give them some bad publicity. Within moments, any decision, faux pas or even the personal opinions of a person in leadership can go viral. Instantly, millions of people know everything they need to know about the company.

Companies kowtow to the social media mobs demanding they fall in step with their ideologies. Naturally, we believe our own ideology is correct. So the mobs always believe that what they are doing is correct and righteous. Popular culture and what is publicly acceptable is determined not by bedrock values or due process; rather by the ideological group that is the loudest and most extreme in public and on social media.

The Age of the Boycott

If you think the above paragraph is aimed solely at anti-gun ideologues, it is not. Far from it. Pro-Second Amendment and freedom loving Americans (myself included) are not immune to the lure of social media mob rule.

Back in May of 2017, Tyler Ely contributed an opinion editorial piece explaining the outrage of the time. Springfield Armory had betrayed gun owners in an attempt to squash out the small firearms dealers in the area, I say this facetiously. After the fact, Springfield explained how their intentions were not malicious and wished they would have had more oversight and handled the incident differently; people can make their own decision on the veracity of their statement.

But the gavel had long since dropped and Springfield was guilty as charged. The total effects are hard to know but even close to 2 years later, Springfield Armory draws the ire of many gun lovers.

The Benchmade and Oregon Police Debacle

Miss out on all the outrage back in 2017? Don't worry. We are in the midst of another conspiracy of biblical proportions. First, Benchmade Knives was thanked by a local police department:

Thank you Benchmade Knife Company for assisting us today by cutting up guns that are ready to be destroyed.

The PD then made a statement that went on to include that “other guns that were destroyed were evidence and when a case is adjudicated the guns are ordered by the court to be destroyed.”

Benchmade Knives made a statement explaining that they were merely supporting the PD in their efforts and the department's policy of not ever selling firearms back to the public.

Benchmade states the company is:

… a proud and unwavering supporter of both law enforcement and Second Amendment rights. These are commitments that we do not take lightly and will continue to support well into the future.

This post sparked outrage in pro-gunners, and lead me to look into this topic.

So, on cue, social media outrage began. Riley covered the initial incident in this article.

As the arguments continued, we began looking deeper into the companies that claim to support Second Amendment freedoms. In our world, however, actions speak much louder than words.

So I gathered political donation data on many companies in the firearms industry, as well as companies in which many likely interact with often in their daily lives. All the information is open to the public and found on the website opensecrets.org which is controlled by the Center for Responsive Politics.

The results were not what I expected.

Companies and Their Political Donations Exposed

To understand the following info, it is important to note that the laws governing political contributions by individuals and corporations are some of the most confusing you will ever see. Of course, there are donations to X candidate's political campaign. There are also donations made to committees. These are organizations that raise and spend money to elect or defeat a candidate and are known as Political Action Committees (PAC).

PAC's usually represent a business or industry. Large companies and the ultra-wealthy sometimes give money to Super PAC's. These organizations collect millions of dollars to endorses candidates, not through donations but by spreading the message through rallies and media.

This has muddied the waters on all the money a company might give to endorsing a certain political issue or candidate.

Laws require that political donations from companies be made available to the public. But is the public image of the company in line its political contributions?

Below you will find the total political contributions from several companies. It'll show the percentage that went to Democratic or Republican candidates, as well as any noteworthy donations made by the company, and any donations to presidential campaigns.

To be sure, these numbers are not the final word on if the company is pro-Second Amendment or not. Not every Republican is a gun supporter, and there are some Democrats (while few in number) who have a more favorable stance on guns than others.

So a political contribution to a Democrat may not mean an anti-Second Amendment endorsement, it may be the lesser of the only two evils in a local election. Presidential and out of state elections are more telling, so click on any company name and you can see all contributions to individual congressmen.

Political Contribution Breakdown:

Companies donating 75% or more of political donations to Republicans:

  • SPRINGFIELD ARMORY– Between the years 2000 through 2016 SA has made $40k in political contributions. While the amount varies year to year, every penny has gone to Republican efforts. Notably, they donated $800 out of a total of $1,020 to Donald Trump's presidential campaign in 2016.
  • CABELA'S INC– The company has given a total of $122,967 in political donations from 1990 to 2016. Overall, 94% of the money went to Republicans. However, in 2016 40% or $4,512 was given to Democrats. Cabela's only presidential contribution in 2016 was $1,000 given to Donald Trump.
  • SIG SAUER INC– The New Hampshire gun producer that has stickers that read ‘Live Free or Die' has ponied up $15,850 since 2008. And while being located in the somewhat un-gun-friendly territory, has given 89% of donations to the GOP.
  • BROWNELL'S INC– The merchant of all things guns, has donated a whopping $320,650 to political causes since 1996. All of which has gone to Republican efforts.
  • NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION– The oldest pro-gun organization has raised a tremendous amount of money over time. Between the years 1990 and 2018, $22,648,625 to be precise. Of this 84% or $19,041,190 has gone to Republicans and $3,523,337 has gone to Democrats. In the years of 2014, 2016 and 2018, 95%, 99% and 98% of total donations for the year went to GOP efforts.
  • SMITH & WESSON– Of the $209,202 dollars donated, 80% landed in Republican coffers. That is a lot of revolver money.

The above companies donated 75% or more of their donations to Republican causes.

Companies donating between 50% and 75% of political donations to Republicans:

  • VISTA OUTDOORS– The parent organization is divided into two segments. One for the shooting sports and one for outdoor products. With familiar brands like Federal Premium, Bushnell, Blackhawk, and Savage Arms in their lineup. The organization as a whole has donated $216,290 in just the last two years. A good chunk, 68% has gone to the Grand Ol' Party, a little over 30% has made its way into Democrats' campaigns.
  • SUREFIRE LLC– This company is currently in hot water with pro-gun customers for political contributions made in 2018. To be specific, only $500 was donated to political causes in 2018. It didn't take 1000 lumens to shed the light on the bad part. 100% of the donations went to the Democrats. Going back to 2008 showed no real allegiance to a political party, with the following breakdowns: 2014- 33% Dem and 67% GOP; 2012- 24% Dem and 76% GOP; 2010- 72% Dem and 28% GOP; and 2008 0% Dem and 100% Gop.
  • NIKE INC– The company that took a stand (or knee) with Colin Kaepernick actually gives 57% of political donations to Republicans. Since 1990 $2,139,428 to be exact. However, the company just did it and gave Hillary Clinton $117,166 and Barack Obama $90,702 for their respective presidential campaigns.
  • L3 Technologies (EOTECH)– The optic maker has been donating to political organizations since 1998, a lot in fact. Of the total $5,107,239 in donations, 57% has gone to GOP efforts. But like Nike, contributions of $14,400 and $14,117 were given to the presidential campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama respectively.
  • FLIR SYSTEMS– The lead maker of thermal imaging and night vision optics, has given $810,801 to politicians. 59% of which has gone to Republicans, not running for president. I wonder if their thermal imaging is picking up any heat from the consumers. The company gave Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign $2,490. Statistically a small amount, but notable nonetheless.
  • HECKLER & KOCH– This gun manufacturer better known by its initials, H&K, has forked over 70% of its political contributions to Republicans since starting in 2004.
  • KIMBER MANUFACTURING– Of the company's $825,678 in political contributions, 68% has gone to Republicans. But the company's other 32% of donations don't go directly to Democrats. In fact, Kimber has only donated $3,420 of $825,678 to the Dems. What remains of that 32% has gone to various 527s, PAC's or other political organizations.
  • LUCAS OIL PRODUCTS– 50% of the companies $1,164,574 in political donations went to Republicans. And like Kimber, 50% have gone to other organizations.
  • TASER INTERNATIONAL– You may find it shocking that of the $114,715 in political donations, 62% have gone to Republican efforts, and 38% to the Dem's.

The above companies donated between 50% and 75% of their donations to the GOP.

Companies donating less than 50% of political donations to Republicans:

  • BENCHMADE KNIFE CO– The company involved in the incident that prompted this inquisition, is found to give 91% of its political donations to Democrats. To be specific, $33,203 has been donated to the Democratic agenda. I am 91% sure we won't be hearing a call for knife control from the Dems anytime soon.
  • CAMELBACK (VISTA OUTDOOR AFFILIATE)– Specifically the affiliate has donated only $541 dollars to politics. But 100% has gone to quench the thirst of the Dems.
  • UNDER ARMOUR INC– If you have bought any of the company's sports or outdoor apparel, 86% of the earnings from your purchase went to furthering the progressive agendas of the Democrats, to include the $7,426 that landed in the campaign of Robert Francis O'rourk. In 2018 the company gave $66,195 to the Dem's and $1,070 to the GOP. It may be no surprise, as Under Armour suffered some backlash from hunters in 2017 when the company cut ties with Sarah Bowmar after she posted a video of her husband hunting and killing a bear with a spear. Under Armour also was in the center of controversy when CEO Kevin Plank made a positive statement about President Trump being ‘pro-business' and was excited about him compiling a group of business leaders to discuss how to make policies that would encourage more economic growth in our country. He was attacked for his positive statements about the president, notably by Steph Curry who is a brand ambassador of Under Armour. Plank walked back his praise, and ultimately the company withdrew from the group.
  • APPLE INC– It is no surprise that Apple supports progressive ideologies. A massive chunk, 88% of the $5,985,664 in donations go to Democrats. That is likely not going to sour many Republicans from craving Apple products. I myself am not immune and use Apple products. At least Apple makes its agenda known to the public.
  • SAMSUNG GROUP– The company has a number of affiliate companies in many industries. Samsung Electronics specifically has given $184,412 in political donations. 57% or $104,412 has gone to Democratic campaigns.
  • GOOGLE INC and ALPHABET INC an affiliate company of GOOGLE INC- The mothership of the internet and the conveyance of information as we know it today is not shy in where its moral compass points. Between the two companies (and Google owns numerous others) $42,106,162 in political donations have been made. That includes years 2000-2018. Of that, 69% has gone to Democrats and around 20% has gone to Republicans. The percentage is not as lopsided as one would think, however, the pure scale and influence of Google and its affiliates is worrisome. Political donations for the 2016 presidential election are as follows: Hillary Clinton- $1,614,663; Bernie Sanders- $357,510; Jill Stein- $44,513; Jeb Bush- $22,100; Donald Trump- $21,921. While some would say Google wasted $21k on Donald Trump, Google would do well to reflect on the over 2 million they invested in other candidates, only to be beaten by the one who garnered only 1% of their total donations.

Under Armour has been the focus of several controversies including this shirt's graphic of an irreverent depiction of the historic image of Marines raising the American Flag on the island of Iwo Jima during the Second World War. During the 82-day island battle, 6,800 US Marines were killed and around 26,000 were wounded.

Important to Note:

I am not calling for a boycott of any of these companies, and in general, I am not a big fan of them. I think the company employees and their families who may not align with the corporate ideologues are the ones who ultimately get hurt. I do think that companies who represent themselves as ‘pro x agenda' publicly, should be called out if their political donations don't go to advancing those issues.

These figures obviously do not paint the entire picture of a company's ethics, direction, or political ideology. Look, when we are ultimately judged, it will not be based on which political party we are registered with, or what politician we gave the most money to. And it is important to realize that donations to other charities and organizations are not shown. Use these numbers to make your own informed decisions on where you spend your money.

From the Center for Responsive Politics:

Contributions to 527s are not included in the Individuals, PACs, Soft (Indivs), or Soft (Orgs) columns, so the sum of these columns may not equal the Total column.

The numbers on this page are based on contributions of $200 or more from PACs and individuals to federal candidates and from PAC, individual and soft money donors to political parties, as reported to the Federal Election Commission. While election cycles are shown in charts as 1996, 1998, 2000 etc. they actually represent two-year periods. For example, the 2002 election cycle runs from January 1, 2001 to December 31, 2002.

NOTE: Soft money contributions were not publicly disclosed until the 1991-92 election cycle. Soft money donations to parties were banned after the 2002 cycle.

Data for the current election cycle was released by the Federal Election Commission on February 01, 2019.

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