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Groups ask Starbucks to Stay Out of Politics

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PHOTO: To Starbucks shareholders, how the company spends its money is just as important as that morning cup of coffee. By Fotolia
PHOTO: To Starbucks shareholders, how the company spends its money is just as important as that morning cup of coffee. By Fotolia
 By Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA, Contact
March 19, 2013

SEATTLE - A special request is being made of Starbucks - and it isn't for an extra-hot, no-whip latte.

To Starbucks shareholders, the way the company spends its money is just as important as that morning cup of coffee, and today in Seattle, advocates for socially-responsible investing are asking the coffee giant to adopt a policy of not making political donations.

Starbucks' CEO Howard Schultz urged fellow top executives across the country not to throw around big bucks in the last election. Now, according to Lisa Gilbert of the watchdog group Public Citizen, they're asking his company to take the same stand.

"They haven't given huge amounts, and much of it if they have given is undisclosed - and that's the problem of political spending," said Gilbert. "But in terms of what we can track, it's nothing in particular. It's just that generally, we think that political spending by companies is a risk to shareholders."

She added Starbucks is the first company the group is petitioning, and that it seemed a likely choice to want to be a leader on this issue. The petition and a letter to investors coincide with the company's shareholder meeting on Wednesday.

The League of Women Voters of Washington isn't affiliated with the petition drive, but board member Kathy Sakehara said it has strong views about keeping corporate money out of politics.

"Any method of financing a political campaign should, first of all, ensure the public's right to know where the money's coming from," she said, citing a few of the League's guidelines for campaign spending. "It has to combat corruption, and also enable candidates to compete more equitably for public office."

In a nationwide poll taken just before the Nov. 2012 election by the Corporate Reform Coalition, eight out of ten Americans said they believe corporations' political spending has made Congress more corrupt and politics more negative.

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