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5 Food Companies Run by Radical Right-Wingers

A number of food chains are owned by far right-wingers who've spent significant money opposing gay rights and abortion rights and funding conservative super-PACs.
 
 
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For all the Oreo Cookies out there – companies that support gay rights, if only because doing so is good for business – there are plenty of food companies that have not come around on progressive social issues. In fact, a number of food companies are owned by far right-wingers who’ve spent significant money opposing gay rights, abortion rights, and other important causes and funding attack ads against left-leaning politicians.

The companies in question include many popular chain restaurants that you may eat at occasionally, or even all the time. It’s wise to know where your dining dollars are going.

To that end, here are five food chains that are helmed or founded by owners who support right-wing politics.

1. Chick-fil-A

It won’t be news to many readers that Chick-fil-A’s owner is deeply entrenched in conservative politics and social issues. The chain has been in the news many a time for its owner’s anti-gay attitudes, in particular.

The latest Chick-fil-A hubbub has been especially high-profile. Chain president Dan Cathy, who is the son of the late Chick-fil-A founder S. Truett Cathy, said in a 2012 interview with the Baptist Pressthat “as an organization we can operate on biblical principles.” Asked about the company’s support of the "traditional family,” Cathy answered, “Well, guilty as charged....We are very much supportive of the family -- the biblical definition of the family unit....We know that it might not be popular with everyone, but thank the Lord, we live in a country where we can share our values and operate on biblical principles.”

Though Chick-fil-A’s attitudes were no secret, this was a bold statement. Unsurprisingly, a strong backlash led by gay rights supporters has ensued. (Meanwhile, the anti-gay side has been vocal in its support of the company.)

In response to the controversy, the company didn’t apologize, but it did spotlight its employee nondiscrimination policy and said that from now on it will “leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena.”

2. Carl’s Jr.

Carl’s Jr. founder Carl Karcher, who died in 2008, had been a supporter of anti-abortion causes for decades. In particular, Karcher was fond of funding the anti-choice group Operation Rescue. He also had a mean anti-gay streak as well. From the AP story that followed his death:

He was reviled by abortion rights activists for his contributions to anti-abortion groups and his oft-repeated story about talking a Carl's Jr. employee out of an abortion. Gay rights groups dubbed his hamburgers "bigot burgers" after Karcher supported a 1978 proposition that would have allowed school boards to fire teachers who were gay or advocated homosexuality.

3. Cracker Barrel

Cracker Barrel is a member of right-wing front group the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), according to the website ALEC Exposed. ALEC has been facing an exodus of corporate members, with at least thirty groups -- including food companies Kraft, Wendy's, McDonald's, Coca-Cola, and PepsiCo -- having renounced their membership amid criticism over ALEC’s involvement in the proliferation of “stand your ground” laws, voter ID legislation, and other problematic bills. Cracker Barrel is reportedly a member of ALEC’s Commerce, Insurance and Economic Development Task Force, which, according to the website PR Watch, "is the primary source of anti-worker and anti-consumer legislation such as the ‘Paycheck Protection’ and ‘Right to Work’ Acts and other ‘model’ bills that limit workers' rights and drain labor unions of resources for protecting employees, undermine consumer protections, favor the Wall Street financial agenda, and limit the ability to cap exorbitant interest rates on credit cards and big bank fees."

4. White Castle

White Castle joins Carl’s Jr. on the list of beloved burger joints with right-wing ties. According to a ThinkProgress report about companies that have helped bankroll right-wing attack ads, White Castle has given $25,000 to the Congressional Leadership Fund super PAC, a group linked to House Speaker John Boehner that is supporting conservative candidates in the November 2012 election.

5. Waffle House

Waffle House (or Awful House as I used to call it growing up) is also mentioned in the ThinkProgress report. The breakfast joint has given $100,000 in the 2012 election cycle to the Karl Rove super PAC American Crossroads. Mother Jones’ Tim Murphy reported on the donation:

This is surprising because one doesn't normally associate Big Waffle with big scary super-PACs, but also not that surprising: CEO Jim Rogers Jr. is a longtime supporter of Republican causes, and the company's political action committee has given exclusively to Republicans (in considerably more modest quantities). His ties to Romney date back to 2006, when he joined the finance team of Romney's political action committee, Commonwealth PAC.

So there you have it. The next time you go out to eat at one of the above restaurants, know that your burger and waffle dollars might eventually end up funding anti-gay, anti-choice or other conservative causes.

Correction:The original version of this article included pizza chain Domino’s, though we have chosen to remove the company from the list. While it is true that “Domino’s Pizza founder Tom Monaghan is an unapologetic supporter of anti-choice groups, including Operation Rescue, Right to Life, Priests for Life, and the Committee to End State-Funded Abortion in Michigan,” as was originally written, Monaghan sold the company in 1998. We regret the implication that Monaghan is currently involved in Domino’s, and we are equally glad to know that Domino’s is no longer run by someone who so strongly supports anti-choice causes.

“Tom Monaghan sold Domino's Pizza back in 1998....The company has been public since 2004. He is not affiliated with the brand and hasn't been since that time,” says a Domino’s spokesperson. “Today, there are more than 150,000 people who work in Domino's Pizza stores and offices in 72 countries around the world -- people of all races, religions, sexual orientations and beliefs. The only thing we have in common is that we like pizza.”

Lauren Kelley is the activism and gender editor at AlterNet and a freelance journalist based in New York City. Her work has appeared in Salon, Time Out New York, the L Magazine, and other publications. Follow her on Twitter.