Much is being made of Barack Obama's latest fundraising accomplishment: A whopping $150 million in September alone. Most people who are donating to Obama are making small contributions over the Internet with their credit cards. But anyone making a donation with a Wells Fargo, Wachovia, US BankCorp or Capitol One credit or debit card may actually be giving the Republican Party an unintended boost as these financial institutions invest predominantly in the Republican party and Republican candidates.
And while everyone knows that millions of dollars are flowing into the McCain/Palin and Obama/Biden campaigns right now, do you know who the companies you buy products from everyday are supporting with the dollars you give them? And do you know whether companies you support are supporting politicians you wouldn't?
GoodGuide, in partnership with the Center for Responsive Politics, is releasing company-focused campaign finance data today, showing the political donations of major corporations to Republican and Democratic parties and candidates. It's part of our ongoing effort to make it easier for consumers to make purchasing decisions that reflect their values.
I first had the idea for GoodGuide a few years ago when I discovered that the sunscreen I put on my 3-year-old daughter had a toxic ingredient. I realized that we know very little about the products we bring into our homes every day, and that other parents should have the same access to product information that top university researchers had. So my colleagues and I at UC Berkeley, Harvard and MIT set out to create the world's largest and most reliable source of information on the health, environmental, and social performance of everyday products.
There are some big revelations in the data that are relevant to this election. Obama supporters may be surprised to learn that Procter & Gamble, the maker of Tide laundry detergent and Pantene shampoo, donates overwhelmingly to Republicans. Even though McCain likes to tout Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman as economic advisors, their respective former companies HP and EBay, slightly favor Democrats.
Also interesting is that some prominent consumer products firms such as Unilever have chosen to not contribute to political parties or candidates through PACs or corporate donations. They do, however, lobby heavily on legislation, and Unilever employees overwhelmingly give to Democrats.
We already know that the candidates are using sophisticated marketing data to find voters most likely to respond to their pitches. Maybe it's time for voters to turn the tables and use product information to advance their own political agenda.
Check out GoodGuide's Political Contribution page and Click "Republican" or "Democratic" to see which companies support your political perspective. Or, search GoodGuide for specific products and learn whether a green product is really Red or Blue!