Don’t worry, America. Your endless breadsticks and salad lunch at Olive Garden is served to you without the extra flavor of politics. The rumor is false and the Trump haters can call off the boycott now.
The hashtag #BoycottOliveGarden took off on Twitter last weekend and no one really knows why that happened. What we do know is that the Italian food restaurant chain quickly scrambled to stop the damage after tweets calling for a boycott began showing up. The rumor that set off the Twitter outrage mob is that Olive Garden’s parent company, Darden Restaurants, contributed to President Trump’s re-election campaign. The company denies it.
The Olive Garden Twitter account team was busy responding over and over again to tweets promoting a boycott.
We don’t know where this information came from, but it is incorrect,” Olive Garden tweeted late Sunday. “Our company does not donate to presidential candidates.”
Perhaps this is the answer to the origin of the boycott campaign:
This nonsense is grossly irresponsible — 'boycott Olive Garden' was everywhere yesterday based on this (and one other) tweet and a BET article that provides no evidence to back up the claim. pic.twitter.com/v8S3nLsq2b
— Josh Jordan (@NumbersMuncher) August 26, 2019
College Fix reports that the original tweet was posted by a Palo Verde College professor, Dennese Lilley-Edgerton, and her information was inaccurate. The professor is peddling fake news. This is my shocked face. I will not link to her bio page in the college directory, as the article does.
Olive Garden also responded to a question about political donations from the parent company.
Our company, Darden, does not donate to any federal candidates.
— Olive Garden (@olivegarden) August 26, 2019
Calls for boycotts are nothing new. During this political cycle, in Trump’s America, the outrage mob is easily triggered. It is against federal law for a corporation to donate to a campaign. Employees can contribute as individuals and that is probably where the confusion comes in.
A quick search on OpenSecrets.org, the Center for Responsive Politics database that tracks campaign contributions, shows that neither Darden nor its employees have made donations for the 2020 campaign. But in the 2016 elections, OpenSecrets shows that Darden Restaurants “PACs” contributed $101,000 to candidates. An additional $30,969 came from Darden employees.
At least six contributions went to presidential candidates in 2016, though it’s not clear whether those contributions came from employees or a Darden political action committee. For what it’s worth, the candidate with the most cash from Darden employees and/or PACs was Hillary Clinton with $8,407. Then-candidate Donald Trump received $886.
You’ll note there that it was Hillary Clinton that Darden’s employees favored, not Donald Trump in 2016. Trump only received a paltry $886 compared to Hillary’s $8,407.
Darden dissolved it’s last PAC in 2015 – before the 2016 election and wasn’t active in the 2018 election cycle.
At the same time, Jeffers said that Darden’s lone political action committee was dissolved in 2015, ahead of the last presidential election. That would appear to be true, based on OpenSecrets.org data. There were no Darden PAC contributions during the 2018 midterm elections.
The spokesman said Darden employs 185,000 people. By law, both political campaigns and PACs must provide the name, address, occupation and employer for donors who contribute more than $200.
“It stands to reason that there are employees who have given political donations on both sides of the aisle,” Jeffers said.
There do indeed appear to be donations reported to both sides of the aisle from the company’s associates.
During the 2018 election cycle, donations from those associated with Darden went to both Republicans and Democrats, Open Secrets reports. The top three donation recipients were GOPAC, a Republican group; Republican Senator Rick Scott of Florida; and the Democratic Lieutenant Governors Association.
During the 2016 election cycle, contributions from the company’s associates were also diverse. The top donation recipient was the DNC Services Corp., a Democratic Party entity; followed by GOPAC and the National Republican Congressional Committee.
It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that establishments have employees who donate to both sides of the aisle. We are a divided nation of politically interested people free to donate to any candidate they wish to support. In this case, if you want to boycott Olive Garden, you will have to do it for a different reason than the company allegedly supporting the re-election of President Trump.