Goods Unite Us, an online marketplace recently started by former Dane County Board Supervisor Abigail Wuest, is designed to help left-leaning consumers avoid giving money to companies that support conservative politicians.
“I think it stemmed from this idea of wanting to find a way to counter the disproportionate impact, or voice, corporations get in the current climate of our democracy,” she said.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the controversial 2010 case, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, that the government couldn’t restrict political donations from corporations and other entities, citing freedom of speech as reasoning for the decision.
“I think part of this is a response to the Citizens United opinion, that really, in my mind, gave an over-weighted voice to corporations,” Wuest said.
The Goods Unite Us marketplace lets online shoppers browse products and brands that have been vetted by Goods Unite Us staff. These items only appear if the company or its senior employees have exclusively donated to Democratic candidates and PACs, or if they haven’t made political donations of any kind.
Wuest isn’t aware of any parallel marketplace for conservatives, and said she actually considered starting that up as well, but decided against it for credibility reasons. She also thought that this type of vetting would be more valued by liberal consumers.
“I’m a progressive at heart, and for me to be starting the conservative one… we thought there might be some problems with that, that it might not be trusted,” she told WisBusiness.com. “So we leave it for another to do.”
She argues that right-wing political candidates “raise the corporate interest above the public interest more frequently than Democratic candidates.”
“There’s already a lot of money that goes to Republicans from corporations, so this is more needed for Democrats,” she said. “I think there’s not as much incentive for conservative consumers to do this; I think there’s more of a need for progressives who want to find, possibly, the rarer companies that want to support candidates that don’t necessarily protect corporations as closely.”
This custom marketplace functions as an Amazon affiliate, so everything on the site is purchased through Amazon’s online ordering system. Goods Unite Us receives up to 8 percent of each purchased item’s price, depending on the specific product — though for most, it’s around 4 percent, Wuest says.
It went live May 7, and currently features over 20,000 products, with more being added every day, according to Wuest. She says she will be donating 50 percent of the profits from the site to Democratic candidates and causes.
“One thing that’s really nice about this idea is, if someone else does it better, that’s really OK,” she added. “This is not an endeavor to make money, as much as it is to create a way for people to reclaim that political voice.”
–By Alex Moe