It’s tough to be a conscientious consumer in today’s world. For the political activist, shopping can be an especially treacherous minefield, as it’s hard to tell if the companies you are supporting with your purchases are actually doing good for the world. But a new app is making strides in helping the partisans among us make sure that the money we spend is in line with the political party we support.
Meet the BuyPartisan app. Developed by Matthew Colbert, a former campaign and Capitol Hill staffer who is currently building his project out of the D.C. incubator 1776, this app helps consumers make smart political purchases. The app lets you scan the bar code on purchases, and then gives you a breakdown of the political parties the maker of the product donates money to.
For example, my wonderfully bipartisan boss is constantly snacking on David Sunflower Seeds. Using the BuyPartisan app, I can quickly scan the barcode on the bag, and see that ConAgra Foods, the maker of this product, has given over $1.5 million to Republican candidates and PACs. With this information, if my boss wanted to be strong liberal, he would cut these sunflower seeds from his diet.
While I don’t think I’d have the patience to use BuyPartisan to make sure that KitKat I’m craving fits with my political leanings, it certainly is an eye opening look at the way a simple purchase contributes to the political landscape, and I had a lot of fun scanning random things in the office. For example, an errant BudLight found in the communal fridge.
Using data pulled from the Center for Responsive Politics, the Sunlight Foundation and the Institute for State Money in Politics, the app breaks down the information so users can see which parties employees donate to, compared to the board of directors and CEO. There is also a feature that allows you to compare the political donations to two companies side by side.
Even if you’re not politically active enough to care about using the app everyday, Colbert’s product makes strides in educating consumers about the political underbelly of their everyday purchases, and sheds light on the issue of money in politics from a very unique angle.