Progressive Shopper shows if brands donate more to Democrats or Republicans
Want to vote with your wallet? This tool shows you which way various companies lean.
Rick BroidaSenior Editor
Rick Broida is the author of numerous books and thousands of reviews, features and blog posts. He writes CNET's popular Cheapskate blog and co-hosts Protocol 1: A Travelers Podcast (about the TV show Travelers). He lives in Michigan, where he previously owned two escape rooms (chronicled in the ebook "I Was a Middle-Aged Zombie").
In today's divisive, politically charged environment, I'm sure there are at least as many people who will be delighted by the existence of Progressive Shopper as there are those who will be offended. So I'll just say I'm not here to pick a fight or choose sides. I'm here to tell you about something that exists and that you may find useful, regardless of your political leanings.
Progressive Shopper reveals the political contributions of hundreds of brands and stores -- from airlines to supermarkets,
. You can look up individual companies on the site, or install a Chrome plug-in that activates while you browse. Either way, you'll quickly see what percentage of a company's contributions goes to Democrats and what percentage to Republicans.
The tool, which has been live since at least December, also shows you the percentages for political action committee (PAC) contributions and for employee contributions to the two parties.
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The data draws from the 2016 and 2018 election cycles (the latter through Sept. 18, 2018, at least for now). It comes directly from the Federal Election Commission and is based on donations of $200 or more. Additional background can be found on the site's "How it works" page.
The idea, of course, is that by having this contribution information, you can decide whether you want to do business (or continue doing business) with a particular company.
Now, if you're saying, "Progressive Shopper is biased!" -- well yes, that's exactly the point, and the site makes no secret of its agenda. It favors brands that score higher on Democratic contributions, and even suggests "better options are available" or "please shop elsewhere" for those that give more to Republicans. But if you're on the other side of the aisle, you can just as easily use that info to double-down on purchases at those very Republican-leaning establishments.
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That said, partisans on either side will soon discover that many brands and companies are, for better or worse, donating to both sides -- Target is exactly 50/50, for instance, while many others have a near 60/40 split. Cynical though it may be, I'm assuming these companies want to make sure their call to any given senator, representative or other elected official is answered, regardless of which party they're in.
Etsy, Lego, REI and Toms seem to be more interested in ideological purity: All were 100 percent in the Democrats' column in terms of donations. Meanwhile, The Home Depot, Gymboree and Citigroup all donated about $2 to Republicans for every $1 they pledged to Democrats.
If nothing else, now you have some data to help you decide. As Progressive Shopper notes, this information has always been available, but usually "buried in large databases that are not very user friendly." With this plug-in, it's a mere click away. But once you click through, you can't unsee the data, and then you have to make a choice: If you note that your favorite brand gives heavily to the other guys, are you willing to change your shopping habits?