Do You Know Which Politicians Benefit From Your Grocery Dollars?

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Snack bars line a grocery shelf. (Image: Wikimedia Commons/ Philrj)

Snack bars line a grocery shelf. (Image: Wikimedia Commons/ Philrj / CC 3.0)

Everyone is talking about the new study by Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page concluding that members of Congress respond to the demands of wealthy donors, corporations and business groups, while the preferences of ordinary citizens barely register.

As Robert Reich points out, Gilens and Page analyzed data back before the Supreme Court “opened the floodgates to big money in Citizens United,” so ” it’s likely to be even worse now.”

At a time of unprecedented political polarization, the study means that ordinary citizens have to be aware of the politics of the companies they patronize — some of the dollars they spend will end up influencing politicians whose values may not reflect their own.

But a company’s political leanings aren’t always easy to discern. Eden Foods, for example, markets itself as a progressive company, so many healthfood fans were surprised to learn that it had joined Hobby Lobby in calling for an end to Obamacare’s contraception mandate.

Last week, Colby Itkowitz reported for The Washington Post that a former congressional staffer has come up with a smartphone app that allows you to shop in a way that reflects your political orientation.

Itkowitz writes:

Bet the last time you were sipping Campbell’s soup or popping Pringles chips it never occurred to you that your eating habits could be political.

But every product has a parent company and most major corporations make political contributions. Are you a staunch Republican who would never pull the Democratic lever? Chances are some of your purchases at the grocery store go toward helping a Democratic candidate. Diehard Democrat? Ditto for you.

Never make that mistake again!

Enter Matthew Colbert, a former campaign and Hill staffer, who has built a new app for smartphones that allows users to scan the barcode of products in the grocery store and immediately find out what political party the company and its employees support. (Any relation to Stephen Colbert, who also shares an interest in money in politics? This Colbert played coy and curiously declined to answer.)

Colbert told the Loop he developed the “BuyPartisan” app to give consumers more knowledge about how they spend their money. For some, it may translate to not buying a certain cereal anymore, for others it could simply be a conversation starter, Colbert said. But he hopes all users will appreciate having at their fingertips an awareness that a fraction of their grocery bill went to political contributions.

The app is based on data provided by the Center for Responsive Politics, the Sunlight Foundation and the Institute for State Money in Politics.

Read more at The Washington Post »

And if you download the app, let us know about your experience with it in the comments…

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