In her keynote speech at last year’s annual Netroots Nation gathering, Darcy Burner pitched a seemingly simple idea to the thousands of bloggers and web developers in the audience. The former Microsoft programmer and congressional candidate proposed a smartphone app allowing shoppers to swipe barcodes to check whether conservative billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch were behind a product on the shelves.
Burner figured the average supermarket shopper had no idea that buying Brawny paper towels, Angel Soft toilet paper or Dixie cups meant contributing cash to Koch Industries through its subsidiary Georgia-Pacific. Similarly, purchasing a pair of yoga pants containing Lycra or a Stainmaster carpet meant indirectly handing the Kochs your money (Koch Industries bought Invista, the world’s largest fiber and textiles company, in 2004 from DuPont). ...
She wasn’t aware that as she delivered her Netroots speech, a group of developers was hard at work on Buycott, an even more sophisticated version of the app she proposed. ...
You can scan the barcode on any product and the free app will trace its ownership all the way to its top corporate parent company, including conglomerates like Koch Industries.
Once you’ve scanned an item, Buycott will show you its corporate family tree on your phone screen. Scan a box of Splenda sweetener, for instance, and you’ll see its parent, McNeil Nutritionals, is a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson.
Even more impressively, you can join user-created campaigns to boycott business practices that violate your principles rather than single companies.
Here are some examples of those user-created campaigns.
Now, personally, I'd go to great lengths to avoid products connected with the Koch brothers,... but how do you know? Did you know enough to avoid buying Brawny paper towels or Dixie cups? I didn't.
But there's more to it than that, much more. Corporations - and the wealthy people who control them - have grabbed control of our political system, and that's only gotten worse since Citizens United. We need a way to fight back. We need a way to discourage corporations from politics.
So I don't really care what your own concern might be. After all, there might be corporate behavior I like which you don't. Or vice versa. But if enough people start using the Buycott App, or find other ways to vote with their grocery money, maybe corporations will start to worry about losing customers when they buy politicians.
Or maybe they'll just put more of their money in 501(c)4's, which don't have to disclose donors, I don't know. Certainly one of the worst things about rulings like Citizens United was how they help keep corruption a secret. Corporations don't have to tell their customers or even their shareholders which politicians they're buying, or why (likely, just to get lower taxes for the CEO).
But hey, it's a start, right? It won't be easy to take our country back, but we have to start somewhere.