January 13, 2017

A member of the family behind LL Bean is refusing to be bullied by anti-Trumpers calling for a boycott of the company because she made a personal contribution to a pro-Trump PAC. Meanwhile, conservatives are reportedly fighting back by ordering merchandise from LL Bean. All this furor, despite the company’s insistence that it is politically nonpartisan.

A second controversy also broke out after President-elect Trump tweeted his praise of LL Bean and urged Americans to support them. Some slammed this as an inappropriate presidential endorsement of a product, but Trump isn’t President yet. He also came under fire for hypocrisy because Republicans criticized Obama for trying to “pick winners” in the marketplace, and here he is promoting one company over others.

Just to be clear on the difference: Trump praising LL Bean is equivalent to Obama going to an auto plant whose workers’ union supported him and saying that people should support their great American-made product. It might be self-serving, but it’s also within the standard pro-American-business cheerleading role of the President. The criticism of Obama for “picking winners in the marketplace” centered on using our tax money and/or government contracts to reward political supporters, like the half-billion dollars the government guaranteed for the solar panel company, Solyndra. That's not just praising an American company, it's using our money to give them an unfair advantage that their competitors didn’t have. Although considering how Solyndra went down the drain and took our money with it, maybe that proves government really can’t pick winners in the marketplace, even when it tries to stack the deck.

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