What Does Howard Schultz Want?


Other critics claim Schultz's first responsibility should be to his shareholders, employees and customers, and that he is risking revenue by potentially alienating stockholders and taking time out of his job running the multi-billion dollar corporation

While Schultz is now urging others to eschew campaign donations, it's also notable that he and his wife have personally made significant political contributions in the past. According to the Center for Responsive politics they've donated thousands since 1994, with the vast majority going to the Democratic National Committee -- and only $1,000 going to a Republican, Sen. John McCain's presidential campaign.

Indeed some Democrats have criticized Schultz for this latest move, citing John Boehner's boast that he got 98 percent of what he wanted in the debt deal, and claiming Schultz's project is simply hurting the party that they believe is actually willing to compromise.

The Seattle Times also points out that what they've dubbed the "Refuse to Schmooze" pledge doesn't prevent people from donating to non-incumbents or political action committees, which can then redirect funds to politicians.

Blog author Curtis Cartier writes: "When big-name business leaders come out with hearty pats for their own backs about 'changing the system,' keep in mind that the system itself provides plenty of ways to remain unchanged while still letting folks like Schultz pretend to own the moral high ground."

Others agree Schultz's pledge won't fundamentally change the system of political donations.

"He should have gone further and asked all other CEOs to end all campaign contributions, period," Robert Reich, former Labor Department secretary, told ABC News. "They're corrupting our politics and are not even in the interest of shareholders."

Schultz does however have plenty of supporters for the pledge. Among them: the chairman and CEO of AOL, and the CEOs of Nasdaq, the Stock Exchange and JC Penney. The list includes those who have contributed to both Republican and Democratic candidates.

As it stands, the list could theoretically represent a serious loss of political funding.

"It's not an indefinite suspension of campaign contributions," Olson said, "but a way of trying to get our elected officials on both sides of the aisle to realize it's time to put bipartisanship aside, put America's interests forward and get a long-term courageous debt deficit bill finalized that helps turn the economy around."

Joining ranks with the millions of Americans tired of Congressional posturing and deadlock certainly won't hurt Starbucks reputation.

"Schultz's stance clearly resonates with large elements of the public," said Tim Lynch, partner at corporate communications firm Joele Frank, Wilkinson Brimmer Katcher. "He has used his position as a business leader to express what a lot of people seem to be thinking."

But is the project simply a grand PR exercise, designed to make both Starbucks and participating companies appear sympathetic to the frustrations of millions of Americans, but packing little real clout?

Without being legally binding, it still leaves the door open for any company that has pledged to boycott contributions, to break ranks if it feels it can gain an advantage by doing so.

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