Statement: Big Food’s toxic political giving

by Lucy Martinez Sullivan, Executive Director

In the hours after a white supremacist mob attacked the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to disrupt the certification of Joe Biden’s election, 147 members of Congress cast votes to delegitimize a national election and overturn the will of the people. These members of Congress, which represent the majority of Republicans in the House of Representatives and eight Republican senators, supported the efforts of a now impeached and disgraced President to convince the public that the presidential election was stolen from him and incite violent insurrection against his own government.

The violent assault on the Capitol was enabled by a long-running assault on our democracy, fueled by many in the Republican party and financed in part by corporate money—an assault characterized by disinformation, false claims of election fraud, and an undermining of democratic norms, institutions and the rule of law.

It is no secret that major corporations, including food and agriculture giants, have poured millions of dollars each year into campaigns through employee-funded political action committees (PACs), which are just one vehicle corporations use to influence elections.

In an effort to mitigate the liabilities that come with supporting members of Congress who voted to undermine U.S. democracy, many corporations have announced a “pause” in their donations to political campaigns, suspended support for the Republicans who voted against certifying Biden’s election, and vowed to scrutinize their future contributions to political candidates. While these proclamations and actions are welcomed, radical transparency and reform are needed.

Feed the Truth calls on all corporations and their surrogates (front groups, trade associations, etc.), and especially those in the business of growing, producing, and selling the food we eat, to:

  1. publicly disclose all of the donations they make to political campaigns. This includes contributions from not only employee-funded PACs but also from corporate executives and members of their Boards of Directors;
  2. permanently cease all political campaign contributions. This would mean terminating corporate PACs and the funding that is provided to Super PACs and dark money groups; and
  3. to do so in all the countries they do business.

A political system in which corporations spend millions to buy outsized influence—and, indeed, to command and control our government—is not only unhealthy for democracy, it is unhealthy for the people living in it. Our broken food system, which perpetuates disease and environmental degradation, is a reflection of our fractured political system where mega-corporations use their war chests to determine who gets power (and who doesn’t) and what they do with it.

This reality is not unique to the United States. Nor are our food systems contained within borders. U.S.-based corporations that have contributed to those that now threaten U.S. democracy have concerning, global reach and ties to governments across the globe. Promising (and even delivering) greater transparency and more limited political spending in the U.S. alone is a half measure at best. If concern for democracy is as these corporations claim, its empty to limit that concern to one country of some 195.

A new era of transparency and accountability is needed to uplift U.S. (and global) democracy and realize the promise that it be the people’s agent in reining in the powerful.

 

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