Is Nothing Sacred?

Did you know all of Chipotle’s political contributions go to the Republican Party? Did you know Starbucks gives 55% to the DNC?

I was really excited to find out about The Blue Pages, a conscientious guide to shopping. This could really make a difference. This book could answer pesky questions one might have about Dominos Pizza.

Then, yesterday, someone sent me a link to Buy Blue. They are bringing a lawsuit against PoliPointPress for basically stealing the idea.

BuyBlue participated in a series of meetings and consultations with PoliPoint staff and contractors. We shared our research and organizational methodology with PoliPoint, relying on Polipoint’s representations that they would use it to develop the Buyblue Buyers Guide 2006 in conjunction with BuyBlue.org.

This seems like something more than a he said/she said type of situation. It appears that the folks at PoliPointPress directly stole the concept as well as Buy Blue’s research. I’m left wondering if it’s true. It would be very unfortunate to find out that this book and its mission be tied to something dirty. I loathe people who steal ideas.

36 Comments

  1. ya gotta wonder whether or not it would have been the right thing for them to look the other way and let this book just be. Perhaps there’s a way to suggest ALL profits be donated to a nonprofit group instead of placed in the pockets of the publishers.

    I dunno. Just brainstorming ideas. It’s such a great concept. I find I wonder about companies all the time.

    Reply

  2. But, Chipotle is so delicious!

    Reply

  3. haha

    I know, that’s what the boys at work were saying yesterday. They love it. They’re also VERY very left. When I told them this, you could see their mouths turn down. heh. Funny.

    I haven’t ever eaten there—to my recollection. But that’s because I heard they were owned by McDonalds and they scare me. Even though their egg and cheese biscuits are as addictive as crack.

    Reply

  4. It looks like you can get all the info you need to know at buyblue.org w/o paying the dang $10 for the book.

    Reply

  5. Good point, Donald. I wonder if they actually lifted it all directly from their site/findings, etc. It seems that way, doesn’t it?

    Reply

  6. well buyblue IS a nonprofit… i’ve been using them to reference most purchases for a while.

    its kind of harrowing that polipoint did that – they approached a non profit, said “lets make a book together”, took the research, learned the methodologies, then turned their back on and did it themselves?

    aside from the fact thats its completely void of ethics, its pretty damn illegal. buyblue has enough documents to prove that there was an expressed intended partnership, and are registerd in california where the standard is being able to prove a verbal contract—this transcends that.

    Reply

  7. I know they are nonprofit. I was referring to PoliPoint.

    So, I guess they could donate all their money back to BuyBlue. That’s what I was saying. Or some other needy group.

    Reply

  8. Jonathan, you think they’ll win?

    What do y’all think will happen?

    Reply

  9. BuyBlue will definitely make money off this.

    Most likely, PoliPoint is going to give BuyBlue a bunch of cash to drop charges , give them credit in the book, and give them royalties.

    If PoliPolint is stupid enough to go to court, they’ll probably get slammed for fraud. Despite the fact that BuyBlue gives this information away for free, they helped polipoint develop the idea AND taught them research methodologies AND gave them a bunch of initial data in custom formats. Better put, BuyBlue helped PoliPoint develop this product and shared trade secrets / methodoligies with the understanding that they would share profits. All they have to do is prove (in california) is that book would not have been made without their involvement.

    I’m not a lawyer. In fact I was rejected from MANY law schools. But I’m basing this on the way that the CA courts tend to decide these cases. In Ohio or Louisiana, i think it would be different. In california though, judges seem to be more sympathetic to that interpretation.

    Reply

  10. Do you really think that party politics and corporate lobbying are sacred? And do you think that that a corporation’s political activity aligns with the political activity of its suppliers? Or its customers? or franchisees? Chipotles has corporate stores and franchises. How can you be sure that the “owners” of the restaurant down the street donate to Republicans? Sure, some board of directors may approve political donations to one party, but does that imply that everyone who works there or who benefit from your patronage equally share those politics?

    It’s certainly possible to identify and enumerate the political donations of corporate america, and I suppose it may be useful at some point. But all this really does, in my opinion, is simply create another dimension by which to determine a brand’s equity. It’s the marketing of politics and the politics of marketing, and it ultimately encourages consumers to apply a reductive, uncritical standard to something as mundane as where to buy a hamburger when really they should be thinking about eating beef.

    Reply

  11. Sorry, I must clarify something. The word “sacred” was used in the stealing ideas. I truly, truly despise that. So, I don’t party politics are sacred, nor lobbying. Although, I’d love to see us do away with lobbying altogether, to be honest. I wish everyone was granted a certain amount of money, and small, if need be. Getting the message out there shouldn’t be about who has the most money to create really bad TV advertisements. For some reason, I think that if we level the playing field, we’ll learn more about the person running and less about how much the person running against them sucks.

    Not sure if that makes sense at all. Lobbying needs to be dismantled and then built again somehow. Right now, it’s just not working.

    I do agree with you, however, people need to think more about eating beef, for example, rather than where they’re getting their beef from. I’d like to think that if people become more conscious one way, they’ll look into other areas, too.

    But with the American public a lot of the time, if it’s not seen on American Idol or that show where they rebuild houses for the unfortunate, the messages get lost.

    That was a low blow. Oops.

    If people had known more about Dominos in the past, and because of that, they stopped blindly giving them their money, would they have had so many franchises? And, now, would the previous owner be buying/building/creating a town in Florida where only the religious can live?

    Perhaps if we knew more about Subway (the largest franchise) we might stop them from becoming even larger. I dunno.

    Maybe these folks getting behind the franchise would start a personal business instead. Maybe they’d be happier and richer because of it. After all, there is only so much money one can make running a franchise. Are they really great money-makers? Or are they helping out the guys at the top?

    I’m totally rambling at this point. Ouch.

    Reply

  12. Reread, michele.

    So, I don’t THINK party politics are sacred, nor lobbying.

    Reply

  13. just an oddball guess, buyblue would lose if it went to court. an a non-profit, they probably don’t have the resources to fight that battle and want to settle out of court. it’s hard to prove an idea is absolutely proprietary like this. well, i guess there is no difference between non-profit and profit based companies in the end is there. they still have to make ends meet and publishing a book based on their idea sure could help them out….sounds like they’re beeing greedy in the negociations. who know….like you said michele, he said she said……i’m guessing a big bark and to scare the publisher away but they lack the teeth.

    Reply

  14. I’ve heard that subway has so many franchises, because its the cheapest buy-in. The licensing and start-up are lower than any of the other ones. I’m not too sure, but i think that either subway or quiznos uses local distributers too (vs other chains that centralize and use corporate supplies).

    “How can you be sure that the “owners” of the restaurant down the street donate to Republicans?”
    You can cross reference their camapign donations with their address . There are a bunch of places in my neighborhood that I don’t go to at all, because they’ve contributed to the republican party. Even if my purchase becomes .00001 cents of their corporate profit or owner’s income that goes to a political party, i’d rather that little money not go towards outlawing civil liberties or abortion.

    But thats just idealistic me.

    Reply

  15. Idealism seems like a convenient way to ignore critical complexities and congratulate onself at the same time. You sound a lot like Barry Goldwater when he said that extremism is the defense of liberty is no vice.

    You’re in good company!

    Reply

  16. I dont think complexities should be ignored. Things get increasingly difficult to set aside as ‘okay’ and ‘not okay’ to purchase from when you factor in more and more levels of distribution and production. Did I buy this carrot from a place that gives money to anti-abortion groups? If not, did they get the carrot from one? Did the carrot grower use water from a company that donates to the christian right? Or fertilizer? Did they employ someone who gave a lot of their salary to one of those groups? Did the grocery store down the block carry products or use distributers that donate to this groups? Do they have employees who do?

    I’m pretty sure that nothing i purchase is 100% ok by my own standards – I just go for the cleanest web of interconnectedness that I can.

    Reply

  17. It’s impossible to “do the right” thing all the time. But it is possible to at least pay attention. I guess that’s all I’m saying. I like to know things. I like to know when I’m doing something (i consider to be) good and when I am doing something (i consider to be) bad.

    I like knowing stuff about things. Actually, I can’t help it. :/

    Reply

  18. talk to old people, they know what to do and they’ve done it all before! you go michele

    Reply

  19. ? i gave up beer for lent and the whiskey’s killing me, especially at work!

    Reply

  20. I guess I’m just wired differently. When I think of doing the right thing, I think about teaching my children to respect others. I think about making sure that I’m never too busy at home to not sing to my kids before they go to sleep. I think about the scared young woman-a stranger to me-whose hand I held when anti-abortion protestors screamed horrible things at her as she walked into a Women’s Services clinic in Buffalo. I think about making sure I tell my wife I love her whenever I leave the house.

    I just can’t get worked up over the far-reaching, tangential implications of my consumer activity on party politics (of all things). I will never be proud of the brand of toothpaste I buy, but I am proud of the fact that I still help my kids brush their teeth every night, and that I have donated toothbrushes and toothpaste to the City Mission of Buffalo.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that there are so many unequivocal ways of “doing the right thing” that if someone has to look to where they buy their fast food to feel like they’re doing something good or contributing to a progressive society, then maybe they need to think about the role that consumption plays in their lives. Buying Blue isn’t a solution; it’s part of the problem.

    Reply

  21. I’m pretty confused right now. That’s pretty typical, though.

    Reply

  22. Well, stealing an idea for a book is a bad thing. Stealing from a non-profit is also bad. But I just can’t get worked up over this, as what they’re stealing (a buyer’s guide to the political inclinations of corporate America’s major consumer brands) seems to me like a cynical way to cash in on people who are angry at the last two presidential election results by appealing to their need to make a change.

    Reply

  23. I’d say that doing the right thing (whatever that may be, per person) is an option with each decision and caring about every decision is better than grouping some as unimportant or inconsequential. Our brains are so capable of retaining information that there seems to be no penalty to passive consumer activism. I can’t think of any reason to choose not to care. We all shop. You can’t get away from it. Shopping with a conscience (wherever those choices leads a person) is just another way of supporting your beliefs.

    I don’t think we’re limited to choosing how many good things we do. Every action can be infused with our beliefs, after all.

    Reply

  24. Question: Would you buy Twinkies if you found out that some of the profits were being donated to the KKK? I know there’s a big difference between the KKK and the RNC, but wouldn’t you want to know this to decide if you want to further support them?

    I know for a fact that there are numerous people who would no longer give money to a group that supports the pro-choice movement. I know that. Don’t you think they would want to know that and then choose not to support them? For them, wouldn’t that be doing te right thing?

    I tend to look for “Not Tested on Animal” postings on products. I figure that’s one less person putting money in the pockets of brands who do as much. I dunno. For me, that’s the right thing.

    Kissing TobyJoe every day is as well. So is telling him I love him but I’d love to see change outside of us, too. Hopefully, I will teach my kids the same thing. Awareness is a good thing.

    Reply

  25. Also, I cared about this sort of thing long before Bush was around. I tend to support the smaller businesses if at all possible. I will pay an extra 3.00 for free-range, organic eggs. I like to do that, actually.

    I will buy Newman’s goods when i’m not dieting.

    I genuinely care about supporting decent businesses when it’s at all possible to do so. Now, one could argue what is good and what is not, but that’s probably a discussion for another day. :] Plus, it’s bound to be different for every person.

    Reply

  26. If the kkk made a better burrito than Chipotle, I’d weep.

    Reply

  27. I don’t think the kkk members are allowed to say the word burrito, much less eat or make one.

    ”? i gave up beer for lent and the whiskey’s killing me, especially at work!”

    when i was a kid, i got in a fight w/my sunday school teacher. we all had to give up something important for lent. people did candy, chocolate, soda. it came to be and i said “i give up church”. then we had this catch 22 where she said “you can’t give that up”, and i said “you said we had to give up something that means a lot to us”, and she said “if it meant a lot to you, you wouldn’t give it up” and i said “if it meant that much to me, then i’d have to give it up to prove my conviction”.

    the moral of my anecdote is this: lent is a catch22. you’re supposed to do it if you’re catholic as its so important, but being so important, its the exact thing that you’re supposed to give up.

    riddle me that, batman.

    Reply

  28. btw, i don’t think people in the kkk like burritos. or eat them. or make them. maybe something less ethnic.

    it must be hard being a racist like that- totally limits your eating options.

    an aging kkk guy and his co worker want to go out to lunch.

    not-racist guy: what do you want for lunch?

    kkk guy: i dunno. let’s try and get something new.

    not-racist guy: chinese?

    kkk: no man. i hate them.

    nr: sushi?

    kkk: i said no.

    nr: vietnamese? thai?

    kkk: whats with you and all the asians. i said i hate them.

    nr: ugh. mexican?

    kkk: you’re kidding me. have you not heard a word i said?

    nr: slice of pizza?

    kkk: don’t get me started on those italians

    nr: diner food?

    kkk: or the greeks

    nr: falafel?

    kkk: what do i look like, an arab?

    nr: i give up. you come up with something.

    kkk: lets just go to mcdonalds and stop by the walmart on the way back.

    nr: fine. i want to pick up the new jay-z album.

    kkk: me too

    Reply

  29. i never did get lent? that’s funny stuff…..hell i’ve never been baptised either so i figure i’m screwed for eternity or at least until i die. you know what, i can only think of going to church(mass) maybe 4 or 5 times in my life other than weddings. maybe this is why i like religion so much, just like why i like boobies, it’s something someone else has that i will never have without converting.

    Reply

  30. Supporting progressive businesses is not a bad thing, and I don’t think making consumer choices because of a corporation’s dedication to progressive policies and practices is a waste of time, either. But there is a difference between progressive business practices (or commitment to progressive and charitable social issues) and strict partisan politics. And using a company’s political donations as the metric to assess that commitment (as “buy blue” suggests) simply reinforces the partisan rancor that is stifling meaningful political dialogue. I won’t be party to it.

    So when I say “buying blue is the problem” I’m saying that simply slapping a party affiliation to a brand seems like a pretty hollow gesture and creates a false awareness. OK, it’s a start if it makes people think about something other than shoving more tacos down their gullet, but I’m not thrilled about corporate donations to EITHER party, and I don’t think partisan donations is THAT meaningful. I’d rather look at their charitable activity and how companies treat their employees, customers, and people in their community. And I would think it’s a mistake to assume that these activities are solely undertaken by companies that support the Democratic Party.

    I am not questioning anyone’s commitment to progressive ideals. I’m just encouraging everyone to see it in terms other than Democrat vs Republican.

    I believe that if we demonize our partners in the political process we jeopardize our ability to move forward. But maybe that’s just silly ole idealistic me.

    Reply

  31. I actually don’t think we disagree. I think you have a problem with the book. I haven’t seen it yet nor do I know how it’s written, but perhaps I will as well. I couldn’t really care less if people donate money to the RNC, per say. I’m more concerned with the specific place money is being put.

    Maybe this book will shoot itself in the foot. We’ll find out.

    Rumors run rampant, I can see this book starting a bunch. We’ll see how it goes.

    Reply

  32. I just look at it as simple economics. The RNC advocates and pays for camapaigns to illegalize abortion and curb what I feel are essential civil liberties. To do that, they need money. They get it from people / corporations who donate. People / Corporations donate (aside from political/reciprocal favors or ideologies) because they are financially able to do so. If I know that someone gives money to anti-abortion groups when they have extra money, then I’m not going to do business with them and enable them to do so with more profits. Will it stop them, no. But if less people do business with those companies, then they won’t be able to give as much.

    I’m not thrilled with corporate or even personal donations either. I hate both parties, and the idea of a 2 party system – it ends up giving us the worst government we can buy and divdie over. I actually prefer neutral companies to ones that give 100% to dems. Some people think those who give money to both parties cancel out each other’s donation and go towards the betterment of our political spectrum – i think it fosters partisan hackery.

    Reply

  33. I wonder why there is such a need for so much money behind ones message during election time. I don’t get it. If we cut the funding and make it so both parties get the SAME amount of money, I would imagine that the messages would be more benefitial. Maybe people would become more creative? I don’t know. As it stands, I’d be totally OK with cutting funds drastically. In this day and age it seems to me that you can buy your way into office. That’s sickening.

    Reply

  34. One thing that I believe was lost: the BuyBlue project is supposed to be reporting not just party donations but charitable giving, as well.

    Reply

  35. the only funding that you could cut are the federal funds which are pretty miniscule. ironically, in order to qualify your party needs x% of the vote in a previous election. Personally, i think they should elminiate that program. it just gives money to the dems and reps to promote their crap agendas – which is exactly why we’ll have it forever.

    Reply

Leave a Reply