Trump


Image: Boycott Trump 

Last updated: April 2017

 

 

 

Which companies are supporting the Trump Administration? 


Josie Wexler explores the companies that are supporting and opposing Trump’s administration, especially those with brands in the UK.

 

Corporate Campaign Donations | Top Republican Donations | Trump's Campaign | Trump's Inauguration |  Trump's Cabinet | Anti-Trump Lobbying

 

The corporate world has a complex relationship to Trump. It did not pour money into his campaign. Trump's total expenditure was just under 400 million, which was considerably less than Clinton who spent nearly double at $768 million. It was big companies and senior personnel who donated far more to Clinton (204 million) compared to Trump (79 million). 

Since his election, he has created a government stuffed with corporate money and connections, and many corporations have clearly started to warm to him. Yet, at the same time, many others have been part of the resistance to some of his policies, particularly the travel ban. 

 

Image: Airport Protest

 

 

Corporate campaign donations 
 

There is some background that it is important to mention when discussing US political donations. 

In the US, it is illegal for corporations to donate directly to political parties or candidates. Companies can donate as much as they like to independent political groups, including to things called ‘SuperPACs’ which campaign – theoretically independently – on behalf of specific candidates. But donations to the official campaigns have to come from individuals within the company rather than the company itself. 

These legal restrictions are supposed to compensate for the fact that in the US, unlike in the UK, there are no restrictions on what political parties can spend. Restricting spending is held to violate the first amendment right to free speech.

Ethical Consumer’s source of information on US political donations is the Centre for Responsive Politics (CRP). The CRP categorises individual donors according to the company that employs them. It argues that it makes sense to associate the donation with the company because major donors tend to be high ranking executives, not lower level personnel.

Therefore, in the material below, where it is just stated that “X company donated to X campaign” this includes both donations to SuperPACs allied to the campaign, and also donations from employees of the company. 

 

 

Top Republican donors
 

These companies and people have, or are related to, consumer brands in the UK, and were top donors to Republicans in the 2016 election cycle and their allied SuperPACs: 

Stephen Schwarzman, the chairman and CEO of Blackstone, gave nearly $5 million. Blackstone is a private equity firm, which buys other companies and then sells them again. It currently owns Crocs, Eastman Kodak and Jack Wolfskin, as well as the US SeaWorld centres that make whales and other sea creatures perform tricks for entertainment. Schwarzman is a long-time right-wing donor, and a personal friend, of Donald Trump, and is also well known for his decadence. In 2007 he threw himself a $3 million birthday party.[1]

Les Wexner, chairman and CEO of Limited Brands, which owns Victoria’s Secret, a lingerie brand that sells in the UK, gave $4 million. He also gave a small amount (nearly $200,000) to Democrats.

Peter Thiel donated $4 million. Thiel was the co-founder of PayPal, although he has now sold all his shares.[2] Nowadays he runs an investment firm called the Founders Fund, whose investments list reads like an A to Z of tech platform companies including AirBnB, Facebook, Spotify and Lyft (an Uber competitor). He also sits on the Facebook board.[3] Thiel is known to be close to Trump and is now a member of his transition team. 

Employees of Microsoft gave over $3 million, although they also gave a similar amount to Democrats. It is not so clear in this case who the donors were.

Top Republican donors that aren’t consumer-facing in the UK included Las Vegas Sands, a casino and resort company, Adelson Drug Clinic, which runs private drug addiction treatment, and Elliot Fund, a hedge fund.


 

Top donors to Trump’s personal campaign

 

By far the biggest corporate donor to Trump’s personal campaign was Renaissance Technologies ($15,511,600), which uses mathematical algorithms to trade stocks. Its CEO, Robert Mercer, is known as a fanatical right-winger who also bankrolled the pro-Brexit campaign, and is the main money behind Breitbart News.[4] However, Renaissance Technologies also donated heavily to the Clinton campaign ($14,040,200). 

Peter Thiel’s $4 million donation to Republican candidates, described above, included a donation to Trump’s personal campaign of more than $1 million.

As well as other financial companies, other major donors were construction and real estate companies, although none of them are consumer-facing in the UK. 

However, the story of Trump and corporate donations isn’t over. Corporations tend to suck up to whoever is in power, and much of the ‘self-funding’ that Trump did was in the form of loans that he intends to pay back. This is quite common in the US: you loan yourself the money to get elected, then once you’re in power, you get donations and you can pay it back. We’ll therefore be keeping an eye on future donations. 

 


Trump's Inauguration
 

After Trump’s election, there were immediate signs that corporations were eager to make friends. They lavished huge sums on his inauguration celebrations, with Trump’s inaugural committee raising a record $90 million, far surpassing the $44 million President Barack Obama’s committee raised in 2013 or the $53 million it raised in 2009.[5] President Trump floated in on a huge sea of celebratory corporate money. The biggest donors, and their UK brands, can be seen in the table below: 


Table: Funding Trump's Inauguration
 

 

The Cabinet and other people close to Trump

 

As has been widely publicised, all of Trump’s cabinet are either ex-corporate executives or have received large sums of money from corporations. Of the companies they are known to be connected to, the major ones which are consumer-facing in the UK are Pfizer and ExxonMobil.

Trump also has a ‘Strategic and Policy Forum’ made up of the CEOs of major corporations. This is not a new thing; Obama created one in 2011, which was led by the CEO of General Electric. The members of Trump’s team, and their UK consumer-facing brands, are shown in the table below:

 

Table: Funding Trump's Team

 

 

Elon Musk of Tesla has said “advisory councils simply provide advice and attending does not mean that I agree with actions by the Administration”,[6] but others are less convinced. Uber certainly thought that being part of the forum looked bad. It quit when the #DeleteUber boycott went viral after it broke the taxi driver strike protesting Trump’s travel ban. 

 

 

Anti-Trump corporate lobbying 

 

On the other side, quite a lot of corporations have been part of the resistance to Trump’s policies. More than 120 companies filed a legal brief against the first travel ban, including such companies as Google, Tesla, Microsoft, Apple, AirBnB and Uber. Others spoke out against it, including even the Kochs, the famous bankroller of climate deniers and free-market think tanks. And a legal challenge to Trump’s second attempt that was filed on the 15th March listed support from 58 companies.[7]

 

Image: Trump Protest

 

More than 700 companies signed a letter to Trump and the Congress rejecting Trump’s climate denial and urging them to take action to cut the nation’s greenhouse gases.[8] The list includes such giant corporations as eBay, Acer, and Mars. 

 

In conclusion 
 

It is worth bearing in mind that there is a lot that we don’t know. Many political agents – including think tanks, which wield huge influence – are not obliged to reveal the sources of their funding. And, as George Monbiot wrote in the Guardian, Trump’s transition team is stuffed with ex-members of the Heritage Institute, a right-wing think tank. Little is publicly known about where the Heritage Institute gets its cash, apart from the fact that it has ties to the Kochs. But in previous decades there was also some evidence that it was receiving money from the governments of both South Korea and Taiwan.

Given the outrageousness of this secrecy, one key response is therefore to campaign to change it. In the UK, the organisation Who Funds You? is campaigning for think tanks to reveal the sources of their funding. 

However, based on the information in the public arena, we have compiled a list of ten UK brands that are backing or working with Trump – either because someone closely connected to them donated significant money to the Republicans, or because they donated to his inauguration, or because they are serving on his advisory forum. 

We have also made a list of 10 companies that are resisting Trump. These are companies that signed the legal brief against his travel ban, or signed the letter protesting his climate denial. We picked ones which also do reasonably well (or at least not terribly) in our general ethical ratings. 

 

Table: UK Brands and Trump

 

Consumers might want to think about avoiding the brands connected with Trump, and supporting those opposing him. Don’t forget to tell the companies what you are doing and why – messaging them through Twitter or Facebook are easy ways to do this. Share our tweet below. 

 

Current Boycotts

List of active UK consumer boycotts

Our boycott list is widely regarded as the most comprehensive English-language list of progressive consumer boycotts.

We regularly add boycotts to the list and you can help by emailing the news editor with any relevant information.

Read More

   

 

Ethical made easy

Detailed ethical ratings for over 40,000 companies, brands and products, plus Ethical Consumer magazine.

30 day trial subscription - find out more


References:
1 Jane Mayer, 2016, Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right
2 The Telegraph, 17/10/2016, PayPal founder’s £1m Donald Trump campaign donation leads to boycott calls
3 Forbes, 19/10/2016, Mark Zuckerberg Defends Peter Thiel as Facebook Board Member
4 Jane Meyer, The Reclusive Hedge-Fund Tycoon Behind The Trump Presidency, The New Yorker, March 27, 2017
5  Megan Wilson, 02/02/17, Corporate donors to Trump inaugural revealed
6 Eliza Collins, Here are the CEOs and other business leaders who will have Trump’s ear, USA Today 2/12/2016
7 Business Insider, 3/2/2017, Elon Musk just said he’s staying on Trump advisory council in wake of criticism
8 The Verge, 29/1/2017 After #DeleteUber, CEO pledges $3 million for drivers affected by immigration ban, Travis Kalanick also criticizes President Trump
9 The Verge, 15/3/2017, Airbnb, Lyft, and 56 other tech companies file brief opposing Trump’s revised travel ban