When you enter your local AT&T or Verizon Wireless store, chances are you are not thinking about your local and national candidates running for office. And why should you? What you may not know is that a portion of the money you spend on a new iPhone or Android could go toward helping causes that you don’t support. In 2009-2010, AT&T gave $426,000 and Verizon Wireless gave $48,000 to House and Senate Tea Party Caucus members. Since 2000, AT&T has given $462,739 to Tea Party-backed Governor Rick Perry, and Verizon donated to the campaigns of Tea Party-backed Senators Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Mike Lee and Pat Toomey. When I discovered this, I felt violated again — just as I did when I discovered that Chick-Fil-A donated almost two million to anti-gay causes and that Wal-Mart uses sweatshops (then again, Walmart REALLY shouldn’t have surprised me at all!). I now boycott these establishments and their products, though with a limited number of major cell phone carriers and their propensity to lock you into a contract, boycotting them can be a challenge.
The point is this: If a corporation does not publicly subscribe to an ideology, then it should not privately support special interest groups. Two years ago, I discovered an alternate cell phone company called Credo Mobile that openly advertises itself as a “progressive” cell-phone company. The Credo website states the company’s principles and is upfront and honest about whom its owners support with contributions. There is no need to peer behind a curtain of deception to see their true motivations, and I respect that.
It is true that AT&T and Verizon give campaign contributions to both Republicans and Democrats. The issue is not to whom they give but how they give – in this case without the knowledge of their patrons. What Credo Mobile has going for it is openness about its contributions and their effects. Credo’s website states, “Since our founding in 1985 as Working Assets, we’ve raised more than $67 million for nonprofit groups in our five issue areas: civil rights, environment, peace & international freedom, economic & social justice, and voting rights & civic participation.” When I signed on with Credo, I knew who my money was supporting.
The problem is not that corporations support rival causes; it’s that corporations should be honest and upfront about whom they are supporting. So, before you sign a contract, go to your favorite fast food chain, or shop at your local superstore, take a moment to research who and what you are inadvertently supporting. Though it is nearly impossible to investigate every establishment and product you use (and still maintain normalcy) you can’t deny what is right in front of you. Ignorance is not always blissful, but knowledge is always powerful. Now you know.
Art work: scene from the Walt Disney Company’s Alice In Wonderland