WASHINGTON - Herbal tea, Clorox wipes and Skippy peanut butter have a little blue in them, while Folgers coffee and Campbell's soup are as red as their labels.
WASHINGTON — Herbal tea, Clorox wipes and Skippy peanut butter have a little blue in them, while Folgers coffee and Campbell’s soup are as red as their labels.
Finding out where your favorite brands lie on the political spectrum is as easy as scanning bar codes with your iPhone.
BuyPartisan, a free smartphone application developed by former Capitol Hill staffer Matthew Colbert, gives users the chance to learn more about the political leanings of the makers of supermarket items.
By compiling campaign-finance data from the top Fortune 500 companies and matching it with their products, the app lets consumers scan their groceries and immediately find out which political party stands to profit most from the sale.
“We’re trying to make every day Election Day,” Colbert said, adding that the app helps consumers back products that reflect their political beliefs.
BuyPartisan doesn’t directly urge users to boycott products, but that’s likely how many consumers will use it.
“You’re able to take that product and bring it to a whole new light,” Colbert said. “A quarter or 10th of a penny that went to a political contribution might not be something you know.”
BuyPartisan is the first project of Colbert’s company, Spend Consciously. The app uses data compiled over the past decade by the Center for Responsive Politics, the Sunlight Foundation and the National Institute on Money in State Politics and pairs it with companies that produce 75 percent of supermarket goods.
The process is simple: Users scan a bar code using their phone’s camera, and within seconds, data are displayed on the screen. A red and blue bar break down the percentage of Republican and Democratic support the manufacturer and its employees provided, while a green bar signifies “ other."
Dawn dish soap, for example, which is produced by Procter & Gamble, scores an average of 70.25 percent Republican, according to BuyPartisan. Celestial Seasonings tea is 91 percent Democratic.
Still in the testing phase, the app has some glitches that occasionally misread the bar code or match to the wrong company. An Android version is in the works.
“People have become much more attuned to a company’s deeper impact,” Colbert said.
The app aims to show users what’s behind a company’s public brand, said John Wonderlich, Sunlight Foundation’s policy director. Too often, consumers don’t realize bigger conglomerates manufacture the products they’re buying, he said.
A brand might promote one thing — progressive or conservative policies — and support the opposite with its dollars. Many companies donate to both political parties, and the issue is not whom they’re donating to, but how much is spent, Wonderlich said.
Knowledge about such practices promotes “a more accountable system,” Wonderlich said. “They’re clearly buying access so they can get policies favorable to them.”