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Tech and the Tea Party: Why Verizon and AT&T Are Donating to Republicans

Verizon has donated to Tea Partiers Pat Toomey and Rand Paul, among others. AT&T also has tea on its hands. What happens when tech gets political?

tea kettle

It reads like a nasty campaign attack ad, but it got our attention this morning. Credo Mobile, a cell phone company dedicated to social change, sent out an email making strong claims about its competitor, Verizon, a company currently basking in iPhone-related glory. Says Credo:

Unlike CREDO, Verizon plays the insider game in Washington and ends up donating money to right-wing politicians:

  • Verizon donated to the campaigns of Tea Party-backed Senators Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Mike Lee and Pat Toomey.
  • It also gave more than $35,000 to members of the House Tea Party Caucus — most of whom are climate change deniers, voted to repeal health care reform, and have cosponsored a bill that would redefine rape.

Credo's email doesn't provide citations or references, but Fast Company reached out to Verizon, which confirmed the above as true. A spokesman read us a statement: "Verizon's Political Action Committee supports a wide range of candidates, both Democratic and Republican, who indicate support for communications policies that are pro-consumer and encourage deployment, investment, and innovation in broadband and wireless technologies—policies, by the way, that are just as helpful to Credo Mobile's business, as they are to competitors like Verizon."

Opting for AT&T over Verizon won't do you any better, iPhone-loving Tea Party-haters: it has donated $377,500 to members of the House Tea Party Caucus, according to Credo's calculations.

Corporations, of course, donate money to politicians. Major corporations donate lots of it. In fact, in January of last year, a Supreme Court decision released a flood of new corporate spending on political ads, by overruling former decisions that had allowed the government to regulate such spending.

Corporations donate money to politicians they believe will advance their interest. The most recently published Verizon report on its political contributions runs the gamut, with both the Democratic and Republican parties represented abundantly. Pat Toomey is listed there, as the recipient of $2,000 of donations. Paul, Rubio, and Lee must have been supported in the wake of this report.

Sometimes, unseemly contributions can wind up working against a corporation's interest. Last summer, for instance, Target sparked a boycott by donating generously to Republican Tom Emmer's gubernatorial campaign. So fierce was the reaction that Target's shareholders are considering a resolution on Target's political activities. Some corporations, wanting to avoid such situations, ban political contributions entirely, as is the case with IBM.

But IBM is the exception. In the tech world, where strange bedfellows are commonplace, where contributions are cast about broadly, and where mergers and acquisitions forge regularly forge new partnerships, everyone is connected. Big business is its own social network, and the latte-sipping, Nancy Pelosi-voting crowd snapping up their Verizon iPhones today can't help but be linked, in a small way, to support of a candidate they might find loathsome.

If politics can infuriate consumers and shareholders, it can also scare away advertisers. Advertisers on the AOL network are apparently worried that its acquisition of the left-leaning Huffington Post will "taint" the brand, in the words of The Wall Street Journal today.

"One of the first questions we have is, 'Does this change the editorial style of AOL?' That is something to watch for," Christian Juhl, of the digital marketing firm Razorfish, told WSJ. But AOL's president of advertising Jeff Levick hemmed and hawed—and pitched: "We have an audience that comprises the fabric of America...That is people who are left, people who are right and people who are center. We are giving advertisers the opportunity to reach all of those constituents."

For all you Democrats out there waiting in line today for your Verizon iPhone, will you think twice once you look at the company's full political contribution list? Republican ad execs buying space with AOL: Does its acquisition of HuffPo give you pause?

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[Image: Flickr user rockandbacon]

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  • The issue is not that companies donate money, its whom they are donating money to. No the tea party is not the Republican party, its a nasty delusion subset of it and if they could a 3rd party. Companies whom are really the CEO/Board of Directors lets not kid our selves can fund what ever politician they want, but when they fund some of the most vindictive politician with crazy ideas on the verge of delusional mental disorder I stop doing business with them.

  • 3collegeboy

    Thank you for that information. . .I did not know that.  You see, I don't spend all my time worrying about who gives what to whom.  I usually spend my money where it does me the most good.  I prefer to spend my time working, involved in the community and bringing up my family with the correct values.  

    But it's always good to know the people I choose to spend it with are doing worthwhile things with it.  

  • Americathelost

    Then you should stop supporting Democrats who are in bed with corporations...or are you just unaware of what is really going on?

  • The issue is not about supporting one party or another, the tea party is not even a real party more of some delusional candidates that would bring the country to a halt and cripple it if they could. Time to do some real educated and informative searching on what that party is really about. Then again that may be the party that you love to follow.

  • michaeltraaen

    it makes me sick that my money is goin to tea party nuts! i will tell all my friends that are on att to go with a company that doesnt suport nuts  do you donate money to fred phelps and his good christian church too? 12 years with att and about to choose a company that doesnt take sides and better service

  • Tommy M.

    One thing to add, you shouldn't use the Wall Street Journal as reference anymore. Ever since they got bought out by Fox News/Rupert Murdoch, they have lost a lot of credibility. They are a republican right-wing propaganda spewing organization.

  • Ryan Servatius

    This is a horrid piece of garbage!
    Fast Company has become nothing but a leftest propaganda outlet and I am done.
    I will take my time and money elsewhere.