Throughout the 2016 election, Eater's new column Politics Plated will investigate the surprisingly interconnected relationship between politics and the food industry. In this installment, a look at the political contributions by employees of major restaurant brands.
Corporations do more than influence what people consume. Many dabble in politics, pushing thousands, sometimes millions, of dollars toward political causes, groups, and candidates. Using Federal Election Commission reports, and tools from the Center for Responsive Politics's OpenSecrets, Eater looked at data from 2011 through 2014 to see how much money America’s biggest restaurant chains have given to Republicans and how much they've given to Democrats.
When it comes to overall contributions, most companies donate almost exclusively to Republicans, with a couple exceptions.
People at 14 leading restaurant chains, from McDonald's to Wendy’s, collectively contributed nearly $6 million to political groups between 2011 and 2014. Since companies can't contribute to federal elections directly, a lot of the money comes from company-sponsored political action committees (PACs), which let company leaders and stakeholders pool financial resources into a special account. Usually, a board decides how to distribute it. Individual employees and CEOs, the people representing a company and responsible for carrying out its values, can also make political donations on their own. Combined, the contributions show where businesses and their employees fall on the political spectrum.
The interactive chart below, ordered from greatest to least support for both major political parties, shows how much of 14 leading restaurant chains' political contributions went to Republican candidates and organizations (depicted below in red) versus Democratic ones (shown below in blue). Neutral companies made no contribution to either party. Select a donor type to see the political leanings of each company's PAC, employees, and CEOs.