Starbucks claimed Wednesday that it has rallied “hundreds” of people in support of a call by CEO Howard Schultz to suspend campaign contributions to Congress and the president until Washington produces a long-term deficit reduction plan.
Schultz has been pushing the idea over the past several days, appealing to business leaders and other Americans to send a message to Washington by cutting off the fundraising spigot.
“This effort is not concerned with helping or hurting one party or another – it’s about applying pressure on all those now in office to compromise for the good of the country,” he wrote in a memo Monday.
Aside from the contribution cut-off, Schultz is also calling on businesses to inspire “confidence” in the economy by hiring more people “now” – as opposed to waiting for another government stimulus program.
The call to boycott campaign donations is risky business. While the pipeline of cash from businesses, unions and other interest groups to D.C. is often derided as a corrupting influence, the pocket-lining nevertheless helps donors stay in the good graces of key lawmakers. If Starbucks launches a strike all by its lonesome – while every other business breaks the picket line – Schultz is unlikely to make his point.
But a Starbucks representative said Wednesday that the company is “encouraged by the energy we’re seeing” from Schultz’s appeal and working on a way to roll out that support in the coming days.
"We've received hundreds of emails of support from CEOs, business leaders and citizens,” the representative said in an email to FoxNews.com.
Not many have gone on record in support of the call yet. NASDAQ CEO Bob Greifeld backed up Starbucks on Monday, writing in a note that Schultz “can count on me.”
“Until our elected officials show the leadership that all of us not only expect but deserve, it is time for us to stand firm and demand more from them,” he wrote in a letter to member companies.
Duncan Niederauer, head of the New York Stock Exchange, also forwarded Schultz’ appeal to thousands of CEOs on Monday.
If Schultz’s appeal strikes a chord with enough business leaders, he could be messing with some serious money.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, contributions from business political action committees totaled $334 million in the 2009-2010 cycle.
Individual donations from the business community approached $1 billion, split about evenly between the two parties.
Chamber of Commerce spokesman J.P. Fielder, though, suggested this might not be the time to start pulling back on political spending, with so many key issues hanging in the balance.
“The business community values our role in the political debate and we do now more than ever as we’re facing an economic crisis,” he said. “I don’t think now is a time to be stifling voices in the political debate. … The variety of voices that participate are necessary now more than ever.”
He noted that the chamber itself does not give much to candidates via PACs but engages more heavily in voter-education ads and other activities.
Schultz is hardly alone in his frustration with Washington. His appeals follow a dramatic and chest-clenching debate over the debt ceiling – in the end, Democrats and Republicans agreed to raise the ceiling with mere hours to spare.
The politics of that debate, and the failure to strike a deal that cut enough from the deficit, triggered the country’s first-ever credit rating downgrade. It also contributed to a roller-coaster week on Wall Street.
Schultz said in a letter Monday that he wants to see a “fair, bipartisan deal” to address the country’s deficit, one that considers “all options, from entitlement programs to taxes.”
He seemed to be directing his remarks in part to the bipartisan committee tasked with finding additional savings by the end of the year.
Obama said Wednesday that he’ll be presenting his own plan to the committee next month, calling on the panel to find more than $1.5 trillion in savings by looking at spending cuts and revenue increases.
Officials said Obama also plans to roll out a new jobs plan next month – in the meantime, Obama is going on vacation to Martha’s Vineyard and Congress remains on break throughout August.
While lawmakers wait, Schultz said the business community needs to ignite an “upward spiral of confidence” in the economy. He vowed to accelerate hiring and called on his contemporaries to do the same.
“The government needs discipline, the people need jobs – and leaders need to lead,” he wrote.