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  • 05.17.16

Empower Mint, A New Ben & Jerry’s Flavor, Protests The Dough In Politics

Help restore the Voting Rights Act and protest dark money in politics, with some delicious mint brownies.

You can now enjoy gooey brownie dough in your Ben & Jerry’s peppermint ice cream, while taking a small stand against the corruption that exists in our political system today.

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Empower Mint, the quirky brand’s newest flavor, is being launched nationally this week in conjunction with a campaign to support the NAACP’s get out the vote efforts, protest voter suppression laws, and dark money in politics.

The ice cream–a peppermint with fudge and brownie swirls–sounds delicious, and it goes part and parcel with the activism effort.

“We’re really focusing on building a better, more representative, and functioning democracy,” says Ben & Jerry’s activism manager Chris Miller, who will launch the brand’s campaign, “Democracy is in Your Hands,” at an even in North Carolina today with the state’s NAACP chapter. An unspecified percentage of the profits go to supporting the organization’s efforts, he says.

North Carolina has been among many states to take measures to make voting harder in the last few years. A bill the state passed in 2013 reduced early voting and required a photo ID at the ballot, among other provisions that are known to suppress voting, especially among low-income, minority, and immigrant populations. Miller calls it an “incredibly regressive package of voting laws” in a prominent swing state, “ground zero” for the fight for voting rights.

The limited edition ice cream is going to be part of the company’s year-long effort to register at least 30,000 voters and a call for customers to demand that Congress reauthorize landmark civil rights legislation, the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

In 2013, the Supreme Court struck down a key part of the act, calling it out of date and asking Congress to modernize the legislation. Congress has so far failed to act, even though the legislation was reauthorized a decade ago under President Bush in a 99-0 vote in the Senate. “It has always been profoundly un-partisan,” says Miller. “Unfortunately, it is currently mired in deep partisanship.”

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Miller says that while Ben & Jerry’s is deeply political and vocal about causes, it does not endorse or give any money to political parties or candidates (though founder Ben Cohen has, independent of the brand, created a flavor supporting Bernie Sanders.) Ben & Jerry’s is owned by parent company Unilever, which also has a posted policy that none of its companies should directly or indirectly give to politicians, which is laudable for a large corporation in the Citizens United era. Still, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, Unilever does exert its influence through an $800,000 federal lobbying budget in 2015 and has given some donations to politicians in the past. It also spent nearly $500,000 to help defeat California’s GMO labeling bill in 2013.

Miller prefers companies take a stand through their public platform. He applauds that companies have spoken out against North Carolina’s recent transgender bathroom law, and he hopes more companies will take a stand to support democracy. “The corporate voice is a powerful one and is one of the most important political voices of our time,” he says.

About the author

Jessica Leber is a staff editor and writer for Fast Company's Co.Exist. Previously, she was a business reporter for MIT’s Technology Review and an environmental reporter at ClimateWire.

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