Should Democrats Boycott In-N-Out for Donating to the GOP?

business_ethics_highlights_2One of the fallouts of the Outrage Era is making boycotting the first resort in any moral, political, social, or environmental disagreement. Here, a California Democratic Party leader urged a boycott of celebrated California burger chain In-N-Out Burger upon learning that the company had donated $25,000 to the state’s Republican Party. However, the popularity of In-N-Out is such that Democrats quickly backed away from the idea, especially as the larger context of In-N-Out’s political donations was brought to light.

A few observations:

(1) Both in this context, particularly, and in general, it is hard to take political donations by business firms as expressions of support for the recipients of the donations. Like other political jurisdictions, California has a notorious pay-to-play legislative culture. Making donations to legislators and their parties is just a cost of doing business where legislators turn a deaf ear if you don’t. Like other businesses, In-N-Out has a prima facie legitimate interest in influencing legislation affecting its business prospects. Donations to politicians and parties purchase the platform on which to attempt to influence the direction of legislation.

(2) The first point is underscored by the fact, as revealed in the linked article, that In-N-Out made similar donations to Democratic legislators and their party. If a donation to the GOP represents an expression of support for the GOP, then by parity of reasoning donations to the Democrats represent expressions of support for the Democrats. Why, then, would Democrats boycott a business firm that is supporting them?

(3) U.S. news media tends to focus attention on public policy issues that are highly divisive along party lines, but much of the legislation of interest to business firms commands support from bipartisan coalitions and faces opposition from legislative blocs that are also bipartisan in character. Thus, even if the GOP occupies permanent minority status in California’s Legislature (as many fear), it makes good business sense to be on friendly terms with both parties and all legislators sitting on legislative committees addressing topics of interest to business firms.

(4) Of course, nothing written above constitutes a justification of the role of money in politics or the role of politics in money. Within the institutions we have, it’s hard to say – even if you’re a California Democrat – that In-N-Out is acting badly.

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LINK: A call to boycott In-N-Out meets its own resistance (by Dakota Smith and Melissa Etehad for Los Angeles Times)

Anthony Grigore is a Democrat. But as he waited Thursday at an In-N-Out Burger in El Segundo for his meal, Grigore made it clear party loyalty would only go so far.

Just hours earlier, the head of the California Democratic Party called for a boycott of the famed burger chain after a public filing revealed that the company had recently donated $25,000 to the state’s Republican Party.

“Eating at In-N-Out is such a standard thing to do across California,” Grigore said, dismissing the boycott idea as a bit silly.

In-N-Out, meanwhile, quickly put out a statement by Executive Vice President Arnie Wensinger that noted that the company “made equal contributions to both Democratic and Republican” political action committees in California in 2018.

“For years, In-N-Out Burger has supported lawmakers who, regardless of political affiliation, promote policies that strengthen California and allow us to continue operating with the values of providing strong pay and great benefits for our associates,” Wensinger said.

What do you think?


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