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Archive for Wednesday, July 7, 2010

What political party does your clothing support?

July 7, 2010

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Beyond political slogans on T-shirts, your clothing may have political leanings that you never considered.

The Center of Responsive Politics compiled an article listing what looks like the political affiliations of top donors in the business of manufacturing our clothes.

On the face of it, the report clearly divides businesses into camps. Diane von Furstenberg went Democrat but Tom Ford went Republican. Cintas Corp. outspent everyone else at least four-to-one with a $186,175 log of political donations (about 94 percent of which went to Republican candidates).

The numbers are interesting, but don’t tell the whole story. They represent only those who made more than a $200 donation that had to be declared. For the most part, most of the funds attributed to each company’s political leanings reflect the giving of a few top executives.

It’s an interesting look at how the industry has invested in politics at a time when companies continue to endure an economic malaise.

“It’s the oldest business adage there is: Sometimes you have to spend money to make money,” said Dave Levinthal, the spokesperson for the center and editor of the OpenSecrets.org blog.

He said that at a time when the industry’s profits are suffering, clothing manufacturers are poised to give more money to political campaigns this year than they ever have.

The clothing numbers aren’t much when you compare the investments of pharmaceutical companies and commercial banks, but Levinthal said the figures are “not insignificant by any stretch ... six figures here or there can make a huge impact on a campaign.”

So far the center has documented $733,138 in political donations for top clothing manufacturers in 2010.

During the 2008 political cycle they documented $2,432,735 in donations for the year.

Levinthal opined that trade issues, taxes, labor issues and health care are all concerns that the businesses might want to weigh in on.

What’s interesting is that typically corporations tend to balance their giving between the two major political parties. They don’t typically invest all or nothing.

However, that was much more common among clothing manufacturers.

Among the Top 20 Contributors to Federal Candidates and Parties in Clothing Manufacturing (2008), 14 of the 20 gave more than 90 percent of their funds to one party or the other.

And thus far in 2010 political cycle the OpenSecrets.org story headlined “Threadbare Politics: How Partisan is Your Clothing?” reports:

Of the top 10 contributors from the industry this year, about half favored Democrats; half favored Republicans. No company in the top 20 contributors gave less than 68 percent to one party. More often, individuals and committees associated with the company gave 100 percent to one party.

It’s hard not to look at the list and reassess what’s in your closet.

Los Angeles-based Guess? Inc. overwhelmingly supports Democratic candidates. That pair of Russell brand athletic shorts was produced by Republic boosters, according to the report. Calvin Klein Inc.’s donations were 100 percent Democratic. Politic advocates at Fruit of the Loom were 100 percent Republican.

So, the question now is, would the politics of a clothing manufacturer affect your shopping habits? Only you can decide.

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