Regulation

Delicious Irony

Foot-shooting philanthropy

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Why in the world would an enormous multinational corporation give millions of dollars to pesky anti-globalization groups? It's all about the ice cream.

On October 16, Britain's Financial Times ran an almost humorous piece on how consumer products giant Unilever lavishes piles of cash on vocal street marchers such as Global Exchange, the Ruckus Society, and United for a Fair Economy. The bizarre subsidy began last year, when Unilever took over Ben & Jerry's, the famously left-wing ice cream company. It seems the hippies at B&J mustered one last socially conscious gasp before bolting with the cash.

According to the Financial Times, "When Unilever was courting Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield last year, the Anglo-Dutch group agreed to contribute [$5 million] to Ben & Jerry's Foundation, another [$5 million] for a venture capital fund for ethical start-ups called Hot Fudge, to be run by Mr. Cohen, and a minimum [$1 million] a year commitment to grants for social change groups."

Unilever isn't the only corporate masochist. The Capital Research Center (capital research.org), a conservative nonprofit that studies corporate giving, has found that businesses regularly give huge chunks of change to the very protesters who would bring them harm. In the latest version of its annual Patterns of Corporate Philanthropy, the CRC reports that "corporations like Aetna, Merrill Lynch, Georgia Pacific and Target Stores—along with many others—donated $31.7 million to left-of-center groups advocating bigger government, more regulation and higher taxes, vs. only $8.1 million to groups advocating free market solutions, lower taxes and conservative reform."

These numbers are for 1997, the latest year for which numbers are available, but if Unilever is any indication, the pattern is still holding true.