By any measure, L.L. Bean is one of Maine’s top companies, a major employer that still manufactures its iconic Bean Boot here in the state and gives generously to an array of local nonprofits. It also has on its 10-member board of directors Linda Bean, granddaughter of the company’s founder and a high-profile supporter of conservative causes, including the presidential campaign of Donald Trump.
To the people behind the Grab Your Wallet campaign, Linda Bean’s personal political views outweigh any amount of good the company does. We hope anyone considering Grab Your Wallet’s call for a boycott of L.L. Bean comes to a different conclusion.
We are no fan of Linda Bean, whose conservative views come with more than a little hypocrisy and hysteria.
After using public assistance as a single mother before she received her family inheritance, Bean has railed against public assistance. She is stauchly opposed to gay rights and abortion rights. In an open letter released during the 2012 presidential campaign, she made bizarre claims about Barack Obama taking away farmers’ land rights, calling the president “HITLERIAN” and saying he was “closing in very fast to eliminate totally our liberty rights and heritage.”
She has also donated heavily to conservative causes, giving $30,000 to Maine political action committees this year, including one controlled by Gov. Paul LePage. It was a contribution of $60,000, according to the Federal Election Commission, to her own PAC — Making America Great Again LLC — that drew the attention of the Grab Your Wallet campaign.
The campaign, started in October in response to lewd comments Trump made on tape while talking to a reporter from Access Hollywood, has taken aim at retailers that sell Trump products or whose owners support the president-elect. More than 70 companies are now on the boycott list, which is backed by a heavy social media presence.
But just who are they hurting by calling for a boycott?
It certainly isn’t Trump, who has no interest in L.L. Bean whatsoever, nor is it Linda Bean, who has her inheritance as well as a growing business of her own that is not subject to Grab Your Wallet’s boycott call. She’s held her abhorrent views for decades now, and it is unlikely pressure from a liberal group will cause her any shame or trepidation.
No, if the boycott has any effect on the company’s bottom line — doubtful as it might be for a company with $1.6 billion in annual sales — it’ll rest more heavily on the remaining nine members of the board, the more than 50 family members who have a stake in the business, and the roughly 5,000 company employees — numbers that by themselves show the difficulty of defining any company by one person’s personal views.
It may also have an effect on the company’s charitable giving — $2.1 million in 2016, according to the company, spread between more than 80 organizations, including the Maine Island Trails Association, The Nature Conservancy, Trout Unlimited and the Sportman’s Alliance of Maine.
L.L. Bean is a good corporate citizen, one that treats its employers and community with respect, and supports U.S. manufacturing. So by trying to punish one person who supports so many of the wrong things, a boycott would only hurt many others who are doing things the right way.