Buy a Latte, Support a Political Party

Wal-Mart, Target, Home Depot and the Gap: They're places most Americans shop without thinking about whether they're helping Democrats or Republicans.

But these retailers give to political causes -- either through individual contributions or through a corporate political action committee -- so whether or not shoppers know it, going to the mall can be a political decision.

"Consumers should know when they're making choices at the grocery store, at the coffee shop, they are in essence supporting the choices of those companies in Congress and in the White House," said Sheila Krumholz of the Center for Responsive Politics, a non-partisan group that tracks money in politics.

Corporations tend to give cash to the party in power, so right now most donations flow to Republicans. Smart corporations also give to Democrats to hedge their bets.

An analysis by The New York Times of corporate campaign giving noted a tremendous shift in corporate political giving -- the most pronounced change since the last few days of the 1994 midterm elections, when the GOP took control of the House and Senate.

The PAC for pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, for instance, donated overwhelmingly to Republicans -- who garnered 67 percent of their contributions -- until this month, when Democrats suddenly were taking in 59 percent of Pfizer's political dough.

But according to the Center for Responsive Politics, some companies' contribute in quite partisan ways.

So what companies support what party?

The most Republican retailer is Domino's Pizza, which gives 93 percent of its contributions to Republican candidates and parties. Home Depot, which gives 78 percent, is a close second, followed by Target at 74 percent and Wal-Mart at 72 percent.

On the other side, even during a time of Republican control of the House and Senate, Costco gives 89 percent of its contributions to Democratic candidates and parties. The big box store is followed by Starbucks at 82 percent and the Gap at 73 percent.

"I'm not happy," said one shopper in Topeka, Kan., who was chagrined to hear that one of her favorite retailers supported politicians she didn't. "But at the same time, there's not much I can do besides vote."

Most of the companies insist that they're bipartisan in nature, and shun being perceived as favorable to causes red or blue.

But it's good to remember that a mock turtleneck can be a political statement, as can a slice of pizza.