Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Will Citizens United help Dick Leinenkugel?

Most of us are aware that Facebook groups can be used to take on a political cause. "One Million Strong for Barack Obama" is just one example of a political cause coinciding with a national movement on the popular social network. Even politicians now have Facebook pages, updating their statuses and sometimes causing political mayhem on the blogosphere.

At the state level, another interesting social movement is developing. Dick Leinenkugel, a Republican candidate vying to challenge Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold for his U.S. Senate seat, is getting flack from some Facebook users who are encouraging a boycott of his family's brewery, Leinenkugel's.

My first reaction to this idea was that it seemed kind of silly. Dick Leinenkugel isn't a direct part of the beer company -- his brother Jake runs most of the operations, and is quoted as saying, "Beer is beer, politics is politics -- I prefer beer." Not much of a fearful tone in that statement.

Then I thought a little bit harder, remembering the recent Supreme Court ruling (Citizens United) that now allowed corporations the right to use an unregulated amount of their capital towards political campaigns. Suddenly, the idea of a powerful brewing corporation funding a family member's campaign didn't seem so far-fetched.

Five years ago, a group of people attempting to boycott a company because of their political ties would be laughed at. Today, the idea that some people might want to boycott a product on that basis doesn't seem so crazy, especially given the fact that the corporation itself can now fund with unlimited amounts of cash its own commercials and other campaign vehicles for politicians ad nauseum.

I myself won't be taking part in such a boycott -- I don't really drink Leinenkugel's to begin with, so any action on my part would be a moot point. It's easy to understand, however, why someone else might want to make this decision, might want to purchase other beer alternatives in order to protest the GOP candidate's decision to run for office and prevent him from gaining an advantage.

Leinenkugel's, in all likelihood, won't take part in such tactics. But that we even have genuine concern over such practices, over a company's ability to privately fund its own family member's campaign, speaks volumes about our democratic values both nationally and locally.


  1. Chris, Dick Leinenkugel is D.O.A. I'm betting he drops out of the Republican race shortly after the GOP convention this weekend.

  2. Very true, Zach. My worry with Leinenkugel wasn't so much his viability as a candidate, but rather the idea of a wealthy company funding the campaign of any candidate. Running up against Russ Feingold, the champion of campaign finance reform, would have been pretty ironic, if the Leinenkugel family had indeed helped pay for ads to elect Dick Leinenkugel.