TL;DR: Wendy’s, Yum! Brands, and The Home Depot did not make political contributions to the Trump campaign. Some of their employees did, but their employees overwhelmingly supported Democratic candidates. Also, shame on you for not reading articles before blindly following sensational headlines.

No doubt you’ve seen posts about places you “can’t eat at” or “can’t shop at” anymore for their supposed support of Trump. No doubt many of you have glossed over the fact that these posts have no citations, let alone the fact that corporations can’t make political contributions. Individuals can, but individuals include not just owners but also employees. Do all employees speak for the company? I’d argue no. But you might consider PACs, political action committees; they can be established by corporations and can make contributions to political candidates.

So why not look at the actual data? How else do you tell the difference? OpenSerets.org publishes data on contributions related to corporations. In today’s post, I review some corporations going around in recent uncited posts, giving you a chance to arm yourselves with real facts.

Presidential contributions

Wendy’s

Take Wendy’s, for instance, which recently made the headlines when James Bodenstedt donated $440,000 to Donald Trump’s campaign. Who is Bodenstedt, you might wonder. Bodenstedt runs MUY! Companies, a franchisee of Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, and Wendy’s. He is not, as some headlines would mislead you to believe, CEO of Wendy’s. MUY! may or may not operate restaurants near you. Below is a table of contributions from individuals and PACs related to Wendy’s.

RecipientFrom IndividualsFrom PACsParty
Biden Joe3,1450Democrat
Yang Andrew2,7610Democrat
Buttigieg Pete1,2430Democrat
Trump Donald3360Republican
O’Rourke Beto2680Democrat
Castro Julian1370Democrat
Steyer Tom620Democrat
Williamson Marianne440Democrat
Inslee Jay300Democrat
Gravel Mike80Democrat
Delaney John K20Democrat
Gleiberman Ben10Democrat

Data above from June 6, 2020.

There are no contributions from PACs, and most individuals donated to a democratic candidate. Trump got a palsy $336. I’m not sure why I should be alarmed by this. What’s more, while Bodenstedt might have donated several hundreds of thousands to the Trump campaign, Wendy’s itself pledged to donate more in support of social justice.

Yum! Brands

Speaking of Pizza Hut and Taco Bell, these are affiliates of Yum! Brands. Below is a table of contributions related to this corporation.

RecipientFrom IndividualsFrom PACsParty
Trump, Donald8,8120Republican
Buttigieg, Pete8,1260Democrat
Yang, Andrew7,9740Democrat
Biden, Joe3,8350Democrat
O’Rourke, Beto1,5450Democrat
Castro, Julian2990Democrat
Gravel, Mike1890Democrat
Williamson, Marianne1610Democrat
Inslee, Jay760Democrat
Steyer, Tom620Democrat
Gleiberman, Ben50Democrat
De Blasio, Bill10Democrat

Data above from June 6, 2020.

Note again, there are no contributions from PACs. All contributions to presidential political candidates in the 2020 cycle came from individuals, which includes employees. More than 70% of individual contributions went to Democratic candidates. Again, I’m not sure why I should be alarmed. What’s more, Yum! Brands pledged $3MM in support of social justice. David Gibbs, CEO of Yum! Brands, ended his piece with the words “Black Lives Matter” in bold. I think we know where Yum! Brands stands.

The Home Depot

Besides restaurants, several posts have been going around about Bernie Marcus’ support of Trump. Almost every headline mentions he is the cofounder of The Home Depot, but authors usually wait until the last paragraph before mentioning that Marcus retired from The Home Depot in 2002, if they mention it at all. he hasn’t had any say in running the company since. Moreover, The Home Depot says it doesn’t support presidential candidates. Let’s check.

RecipientFrom IndividualsFrom PACsParty
Biden, Joe43,1020Democrat
Trump, Donald33,3030Republican
Buttigieg, Pete26,2510Democrat
Yang, Andrew23,0440Democrat
O’Rourke, Beto13,1790Democrat
Castro, Julian3,5780Democrat
Williamson, Marianne1,8320Democrat
Steyer, Tom1,0510Democrat
Inslee, Jay5420Democrat
Gravel, Mike2990Democrat
Delaney, John K1520Democrat
Patrick, Deval250Democrat
Gleiberman, Ben60Democrat
De Blasio, Bill10Democrat

Data above from June 6, 2020.

The Home Depot’s statement bears out: All contributions to presidential campaigns are from individuals, not PACs. What’s more, over 77% of contributions went to Democratic candidates. I don’t see any cause for alarm, not the least of all because The Home Depot pledged $1MM to the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law in a message from the CEO on June 1.

Note: I’ve seen a lot of posts from folks saying they will or have switched to Lowe’s. To date, Lowe’s has not mentioned financially supporting social justice in their corporate press releases. See for yourself.

Senate and House contributions

Dig deeper, and you’ll find that the PACs for Wendy’s, Yum! Brands, and The Home Depot generally support Republican candidates over Democratic ones in the House and Senate and generally support the Republic party over the Democratic one. But this isn’t unexpected when you consider that most business owners are Republicans. In 2016, Infogroup published a report showing that Republicans are 24% more likely to be a business owner than a Democrat.

To boycott or not to boycott

So what’s a boycott-mongering liberal to do to make a dent in their wallets? Well, I’ve got bad news and I’ve got worse news. Truth be told, you should probably just stop before you start.

First, you’re going to have to do a hell of a lot of research. In fact, you’ll probably have to stop shopping at most of the places you do, given that most of them are likely to be owned by Republicans. But it gets worse. You probably won’t bother any of them, because most boycotts don’t change anything. The ones that do can often backfire, and even successful boycotts don’t generally work the way you would expect.

What does a successful boycott look like? Does it look like workers losing their jobs because sales dip so low a company closes up shop? Does it look like previously indifferent customers thumbing their nose at you by going out of their way to buy the products you now detest? Think about it: How did you respond the last time a conservative group called for a boycott of something you never thought much until then?