Guinness and the Koch Brothers: How Money Buys Influence

It’s hard to think of St. Patrick’s Day without thinking about Guinness—which made things awkward for organizers of New York City’s St. Patrick’s Day parade this year.

Guinness decided not to join the parade because it barred gay and lesbian groups from participating. Days before, Heineken and Sam Adams brewer Boston Beer Co withdrew their sponsorships of parades in New York and Boston for similar reasons.

It’s a powerful statement coming from businesses whose products are typically associated with the holiday—especially when their financial backing allows the parades to happen in the first place. These events reinforce how having monetary power can garner attention and call others to action.

But those with wealth and high visibility have different ideas about what deserves attention. Guinness used its brand and money to reinforce its political stance at a parade; while the move is admirable, it only influences public opinion in the short run. People with more financial power, however, have a much farther reach—and how they spend their money can affect everyone.

Take David and Charles Koch, owners of the conglomerate Koch Industries: they believe in low taxes, minimal industry regulation, and reduced social services. While they have donated toward causes such as cancer research and the arts, their political involvement has leaders and citizens concerned.

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Figures such as Senator Harry Reid have rallied against the brothers for investing so much money in political causes they support. He has some substantial examples to work with:

  • Koch Industries is widely regarded as one of the largest air polluters in the country, yet the brothers convinced Congress members to sign a pledge saying they wouldn’t back climate change legislation.
  • Americans for Prosperity, a political action committee that heavily relies on the brothers for funding, rolled out a series of ads against the Affordable Care Act—which didn’t really stick to factual information.
  • They invested $490 million in the 2012 election cycle, including fundraising for the Republican candidacy.

Regardless of whether anyone sides with the Koch brothers’ or Guinness’s political philosophies, you can’t help but wonder if wealthy people and businesses should feel responsible for supporting a greater good. It’s one matter to influence public opinion by withholding money or not participating (as Guinness did)—but if you provide financial backing to political figures and legislature behind the scenes, how do we know who works for our best interests?

Sure, it’s a stretch to compare a brewery to two wealthy brothers. But both have money, so both have power—it’s just a matter of quantity.

Should Guinness or the Koch brothers practice business differently? Leave us a comment!

-Amanda

Amanda Suazo, editor, joined BSB in 2010 as the writing guru for the organization’s website, official documents, and documentary before focusing a bit on philanthropy. Now a graduate of Gonzaga University, she is currently an MBA student and freelance writer. Between Zumba classes and downing espresso, you might catch her attempting to be a vegetarian. Find her on Twitter.

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What’s the Holdup (on Immigration Reform)?

Last Tuesday, the United States Senate voted “overwhelmingly” to begin a debate on the overhaul of current immigration policy. I love how a word like “overwhelmingly” can be used to describe a vote simply to allow a bill to be debated. So that’s great. Overwhelming bipartisan support to allow a discussion to begin. But where exactly does that leave us in regards to new immigration policy?

Nowhere.

The Senate is just now beginning what will be a month-long debate on the issue—with any eventual success there simply being the first step before sending the bill to the House. But the positive is that there is support to at least debate the bill. The majority of policymakers agree that the current system is broken. The difference, as always, comes down to how to fix it. An outline of the current proposal can be found here.

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On the Republican side, concern is that the bill won’t provide strong enough border security. More left-leaning groups like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) claim that the current border setup already threatens civil and human rights, and that further bolstering it would only exacerbate the issues.

The second significant debate point is the issue over what government benefits are accorded to illegal immigrants. The new bill would allow for a path to citizenship for even illegal immigrants, albeit an arduous one. A large majority of applicants would be facing a process of at least ten years. Under the current provisions, these immigrants would be classed as “registered provisional immigrants” upon payment of a fine and a successful application. This classification would allow them to travel and work in the United States, while still being ineligible for most government benefits. Only then, after ten years in provisional status, could immigrants seek a green card and the right to permanent residency.

Even when things seem black and white, there’s always grey area. Or rather, one side sees it white, one black. But regardless of where the extremes fall and what may eventually arise as a compromise bill, the fact is that the discussion has begun. And where people are talking, we can hope one day for a resolution.

 

-David

David Wilson graduated from the University of Texas in 2006. Since then he has gone wherever the wind blows him, living in Europe, China, and the States, and traveling extensively throughout the rest of the world. When he’s not on the move, you can find him obsessing over latte art, playing piano, or trying to bleach his hair in the sunshine. Follow him on Twitter.