A BUZZFLASH NEWS ANALYSIS
by Meg White
Ah, if only we could survive on Ben & Jerry’s ice cream alone. Alas, it’s nearly impossible to avoid corn products from Archer Daniels Midland (or paying their corporate welfare with our tax money). But one website, BetterWorldShopper.com, can make it easier to parse the good companies from the bad. And when BuzzFlash decided to pair up their rankings with 2008 presidential campaign finance data, we got a glimpse of where employees of the best and worst companies in the world are dropping donations.
The site compiles 20 years of research and ranks global companies on performance in five key criteria: the environment, human rights, animal protection, community involvement and social justice. Companies are grouped into dozens of product rankings from airlines to bottled water. Also, the site created a ten best and ten worst list overall.
The web site (and a corresponding handbook, The Better World Shopping Guide) was created by Dr. Ellis Jones, a sociology professor at the University of California, Davis. He envisions shopping as a political statement.
“We don’t vote for the CEOs or their policies (unless we are rich enough to be significant shareholders, informed enough to know what’s going on, and compassionate enough to care about more than just personal profit), yet our destinies are increasingly in their hands,” he writes on the site.
“As citizens, on average, we might vote once every 4 years, if at all. As consumers, we vote every single day with the purest form of power…money. The average American family spends around $18,000 each year on goods and services. Think of it as casting 18,000 votes every year for the kind of world you want to live in. Use this site to take back your power.”
BuzzFlash decided to take Jones up on his offer. We analyzed campaign receipts from Jan. 1, 2006 to present for the two main candidates for president, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL), searching for donations from employees of the ten best and ten worst companies in the world. Let’s start with the good guys:
The ten best companies are, unsurprisingly, smaller than, say, Wal-Mart. Since they have fewer employees than the huge corporations that grace the ten worst list, their impact on financing presidential candidates is obviously less. Still, in crunching the numbers, an interesting, consistent pattern emerged. While Obama received little more than $17,000 over the reporting period, McCain got less from progressive companies. In fact, he got nothing at all.
Interesting patterns revealed themselves more subtly in analyzing receipts from the ten worst companies. Obama took in a total of $190,290 and McCain only got $117,478. However, one must take into consideration the sheer amount of money Obama was able to raise over the time period: almost twice as much as McCain. So while 0.11 percent of McCain’s finances received between 2006 and now were from employees of the ten worst companies in the world, that figure was only 0.09 percent for Obama.
Macro observations played themselves out in individual comparisons. Obama’s campaign consistently touts its grassroots support among small donors. In analyzing the data from one of the ten worst companies, Chevron-Texaco, this assertion proved accurate. McCain received $15,500 from employees of the oil company. Almost a third of that came from lobbyist and Chevron’s Vice President of Governmental Affairs, Lisa Barry. Obama’s receipts from Chevron employees, while over twice the amount of McCain’s, came in smaller chunks, mostly from the likes of engineers and accountants.
Obviously, this is only a small piece of the campaign finance puzzle. And just because an engineer at a global corporation donates to a particular candidate does not mean that candidate is in a corporation’s pockets. But employer data is required on Federal Elections Commission reports for a reason, and BetterWorldShopper.com ranked global companies for an equally important reason. In these days of shady 527s and political action committees, voters should take all the campaign finance data they can get.
A BUZZFLASH NEWS ANALYSIS