L.L. Bean has said that it aims to stay out of politics. A tweet from President-elect Donald Trump Thursday morning, however, has further fuelled a controversy the Maine-based brand has faced over the last week.
On Monday, it was revealed that Linda Bean, granddaughter of the company’s founder, Leon Leonwood Bean, had made a donation of $60,000 in support of a pro-Trump PAC during the candidate’s campaign, according to the AP.
On Thursday morning, Trump sent out a tweet thanking Bean for her support.
According to the US Office of Government Ethics, executive branch employees are not permitted to “suggest that the agency or any part of the executive branch endorses an organisation (including a nonprofit organisation), product, service, or person.” It’s unclear if these rules extend to the president or president-elect, and whether Trump’s recommendation to “buy L.L. Bean” applies here.
It was later revealed that the PAC Bean donated to, Making America Great Again LLC, was not registered to accept individual donations over $5,000, and is currently facing scrutiny from the Federal Election Commission. The PAC opened their books on Thursday, according to the AP, to show that Bean had actually donated only $30,000 to the effort, not $60,000 as had previously been claimed.
The FEC told the group it could face an audit or punitive action if it doesn’t respond, according to a letter obtained by the AP. In response, the group says it will seek to re-register as a super PAC that is allowed to raise unlimited funds from individual donors. The PAC’s chairman, David Jones, told the AP that he thought it was already registered as such.
The incident has brought on scrutiny of the Maine-based L.L. Bean, which is famous for its weatherproof shoes and outdoor gear. The brand is now facing a boycott by the “Grab Your Wallet” group, which has focused on avoiding products made by companies that support Trump, or by companies with owners who have publicly supported Trump.
“The reality is that there are serious repercussions for a company’s brand and bottom line when consumers learn it does business with the Trump family or helped to fund Donald’s rise to political power,” Shannon Coulter, cofounder of the Grab Your Wallet movement, told the AP.
Bean responded to the boycott in an appearance on Fox Business Network Thursday, calling the boycott “bullying.”
“It’s bullying me personally,” Bean told host Maria Bartiromo. “They want to control how we spend our money, what we buy, where we buy it. That’s un-American.”
Bean also told Fox Business that she won’t resign from L.L. Bean’s board, and that her son — who serves as vice chairman — has noted an increase in fan letters and a “slight uptick in business” since the incident.
L.L. Bean responded to the boycott in a Facebook post statement on Sunday written by its executive chairman, Shawn Gorman, who notes that Linda Bean is only one of more than 50 family members involved in the company.
“No individual alone speaks on behalf of the business or represents the values of the company that [founder] L.L. built,” the statement read. “L.L. Bean does not endorse political candidates, take positions on political matters, or make political contributions. Simply put, we stay out of politics. To be included in this boycott campaign is simply misguided, and we respectfully request that Grab Your Wallet reverse its position.”
AP also notes that, according to campaign finance reports, donors linked to the company frequently donate to both Democratic and Republican causes.
L.L. Bean did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.
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