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Apple Won't Put Its Money Where Trump's Mouth Is

By David Jones
Jun 21, 2016 5:00 AM PT
republican-national-convention-apple-trump

Apple reportedly has declined to sponsor the Republican National Convention in Cleveland next month amid increasing concerns over the rhetoric coming from presumptive nominee Donald Trump.

The company notified RNC officials that it would withdraw its support from the July convention after Trump made a number of highly charged statements targeting minority and religious groups, Politico reported last week. Apple apparently had planned to provide funding and high-tech equipment to both the Republican and Democratic conventions but has pulled its support from the RNC.

The company has butted heads with the Trump campaign in recent months, with the candidate blasting Apple's overseas manufacturing practices. Trump also called for a boycott to protest Apple's legal fight with the FBI, which had demanded that the company assist in accessing encrypted data to further the bureau's investigation of last December's terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California.

Several other major U.S. companies reportedly have declined to help support the RNC this year, including HP, Wells Fargo and Motorola. [*Editor's Note - June 21, 2016]

"HP Inc. will not be providing financial or technical support to either convention in 2016," spokesperson Emily Horn told the E-Commerce Times.

Fundraising on Pace

The RNC is not without its supporters, though, according to Audrey Scagnelli, press secretary for the convention.

"We are working with a variety of major tech partners who are focused on being part of the American political process," she told the E-Commerce Times.

"While there have been many reports of who may not be supporting this year's convention, what's been overlooked is the fact that we have more than 100 donors who are supporting the Host Committee," said spokesperson Emily Lauer.

The Cleveland 2016 Host Committee already has raised US$57.5 million of the convention's $64 million budget, or 90 percent of the funding required, she told the E-Commerce Times.

The fundraising pace exceeds that of the 2008 St. Paul convention and the 2012 Tampa convention, Lauer pointed out.

While some companies have said they will not support the convention, that is different from saying they are pulling out of prior commitments, she argued.

Apple "has not been part of the more than 100 committed donors to the Host Committee," Lauer maintained.

Apple had no comment, spokesperson Fred Sainz told the E-Commerce Times.

Brand Protection

Many companies were willing to give Trump the opportunity to pivot toward a broader general election strategy after clinching the nomination, suggested Darrell West, vice president for governance studies at the Brookings Institution.

However, when he ramped up the rhetoric in recent weeks, they didn't want to risk tarnishing their corporate image, he told the E-Commerce Times.

"I think they're worried about damage to their own brand, particularly in the tech sector, which is a very youth-oriented market," West told the E-Commerce Times. "Making bigoted statements is sort of the kiss of death."

Apple and other technology companies commonly invest money and resources in both major political parties, because they want to get their phone calls returned and have access to politicians when there are issues of concern on the table, he noted.

The impact on the Republican general election campaign from a company like Apple withholding support goes well beyond the immediate financial blow, as the technical assistance required to run a modern political operation on a national scale is immense. Campaigns generally do not have that kind of expertise in house.

Color of Change Campaign

Apple is one of many corporations Color of Change has been targeting in a campaign launched several months ago. Armed with more than 100,000 signatures, the group aims to get corporations and other organizations to decline to support the Trump campaign.

In addition to Apple, some of the high-profile companies on its list are Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Adobe, Cisco, AT&T, Amazon, Twitter, Verizon and HP.

Color of Change believes that its lobbying and advertising efforts, along with media coverage of its campaign, helped nudge Apple toward its decision.

"The Apple news raises the bar for other corporations," said Rashad Robinson, spokesperson for the Color of Change PAC. "Not only has Apple declined to support the Republican National Convention, but they've explicitly told Republican leaders that Trump's bigoted rhetoric is the reason that they're sitting out."

Companies continuing to support the convention "need to ask themselves what their consciences are telling them," he said. "History will tell the story of those who had a chance to stand up to Donald Trump and all he represents, but chose instead to throw their brands and money behind his toxic vision for America."

*ECT News Network editor's note - June 21, 2016: Our original published version of this story included UPS, Ford and JPMorgan Chase among the companies that reportedly declined to support the RNC this year. However, those reports have not completely represented the companies' positions.

"UPS made the decision last year not to support either political convention when it established the company's 2016 budget," spokesperson Kara Ross told the E-Commerce Times. "We will not have a presence at the Republican nor the Democratic convention. It is erroneous to assert or infer that UPS decided not to support the conventions due to the identity or position of a candidate. It was not a political decision, by any means."

Also, "Ford is not sponsoring the host committee for either the Republican or Democratic convention," spokesperson Christin Baker told the E-Commerce Times. "We will have a presence at both conventions -- engaging mostly through events with states where we have a manufacturing presence, like Michigan, Missouri and Ohio."

JPMorgan also is not planning to sponsor either convention this year but does plan to sponsor some public-service activities that are connected to each event.


David Jones is a freelance writer based in Essex County, New Jersey. He has written for Reuters, Bloomberg, Crain's New York Business and The New York Times.


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