The Republican Party isn’t the only one fretting about what a Donald Trump nomination would do to its brand. The New York Times reports that some of “the country’s best-known corporations are nervously grappling with what role they should play at the Republican National Convention” given Trump is all but certain to arrive there with the most delegates to his name:
An array of activist groups is organizing a campaign to pressure the companies to refuse to sponsor the gathering, which many of the corporations have done for the Republican and the Democratic Parties for decades. The pressure is emerging as some businesses and trade groups are privately debating whether to scale back their participation, according to interviews with more than a dozen lobbyists, consultants and fund-raisers directly involved in the conversations.
The concerns extend beyond simply helping to pay for the convention. The corporations are also worried about sending their executives to the festivities, and whether they want their logos plastered at off-site events such as concerts.
You don’t need an MBA to understand why the companies are having second thoughts. While Trump is indeed popular with many Americans (aka “consumers” in boardrooms everywhere), he’s wildly unpopular with even more of them thanks to his toxic combination of misogyny, xenophobia, and racism. While no one can predict how much vitriol Trump might spew during an acceptance speech, or what type of mayhem might happen if Republicans were to succeed in snatching the nomination away from him at a contested convention, it’s a safe bet that whatever happens in Cleveland, conventiongoers and protesters aren’t going to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony. As Rashad Robinson, the executive director of Color of Change, an advocacy group that is pressuring companies to keep their wallets closed, put it to the Times: “Do they want riots brought to us by Coca-Cola?”
Among the corporations named by the Times and/or Politico, which has its own look at the corporate concerns, as currently assessing their RNC plans in one way or another: Apple, Google, Walmart, Coca-Cola, and Ford, as well as the American Petroleum Institute, the U.S. oil industry’s trade group. Meanwhile, H&R Block has ruled out taking part in the convention altogether (it also did not take part in the 2012 GOP convention), while AT&T has signed on as the official telecommunications provider for the event, though the company is stressing that it’s doing the same for the Democrats. Generally speaking, most companies would prefer to avoid taking too vocal of a stand one way or the other—given fears of a backlash from Trump’s, shall we say, vocal supporters—but that may not be an option thanks to activists and online petitions.
Political conventions are highly produced, made-for-television affairs—the Cleveland host committee is hoping to raise $64 million for this one—and often go over budget. Mitt Romney’s finance team had to step in four years ago to help cover the costs of the GOP convention in Tampa, New York Jets owner Woody Johnson did the same for the 2008 convention in Minneapolis–St. Paul, and so did Michael Bloomberg for the 2004 convention in New York City. Trump, of course, could always cut his own personal check to cover any shortfall this time around, but it’s a safe bet that the real estate tycoon would want something in return from the GOP, namely the nomination.