May 07, 2024

Republicans publicly bash Bud Light, quietly pocket Bud Light money

For months, right-wing political figures have targeted Bud Light, condemning the beer — and its parent company, Anheuser-Busch — as irredeemably "woke." The problems for Bud Light started earlier this year, when Bud Light sent trans influencer Dylan Mulvaney a custom six-pack of beer featuring her face. On April 1, Mulvaney, who has more than 10 million followers on TikTok, used the cans to promote Bud Light in a video.

For some, Bud Light's short-lived partnership with Mulvaney was an irredeemable sin and revealed that the company was trying to radically alter the country. Conservative personalities Charlie Kirk and Matt Walsh declared it was time to “put Budweiser out of business.” Townhall columnist Derek Hunter tweeted, “@budlight: the groomer of beers.” Another right-wing pundit, Aaron McIntire, called Mulvaney “mentally ill” and said Budweiser “desecrated” its can by including her image.

Soon, powerful Republican elected officials hopped on the anti-Bud Light bandwagon. On April 24, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds (R), who also serves as chair of the Republican Governors Association (RGA), tweeted that Anheuser-Busch is a "Woke Corporation… trying to change who WE are." She promoted a "Real Women of Politics" beer koozie that would support another RGA member, Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders (R). The koozies were styled like a Bud Light can, with "Real Woman" taking the place of "Bud Light." An online video promoting the koozies attacked Anheuser-Busch, saying "[s]ome big companies can't tell the difference between real and fake anymore" and "real women work too hard for this s***." You could buy two anti-Bud Light koozies featuring Reynolds' image for $15.

Reynolds did not mention in her tweet that, less than a week before publicly trashing Bud Light, the RGA accepted a $25,000 donation from Anheuser-Busch.

If Reynolds really believes that Anheuser-Busch, through its promotion with Mulvaney, is a malign force seeking to undermine American values, it's unclear why an organization she controls would accept Anheuser-Busch's money. But Reynolds' conduct is not an anomaly.

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall (R) attacked Anheuser-Busch in a May 23 Wall Street Journal column as a company that embraced "ESG ideology." (ESG is an acronym for environmental, social, and governance issues.) Marshall, who also serves as the chair of the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA), testified at a Congressional hearing earlier in May that ESG was "a clear and present danger to consumers and to our democracy." ESG, Marshall said, was the work of "an unelected cabal of global elites" who are trying to "hijack our capitalist system" and "threaten hard earned dollars of American workers."

But while Marshall publicly decries the "threat" from "woke" companies like Anheuser-Busch, he quietly takes its money. RAGA collected $100,000 from Anheuser-Busch this year. $50,000 was accepted on May 23, the same day Marshall published his Wall Street Journal column attacking Anheuser-Busch by name. (The other $50,000 from Anheuser-Busch to RAGA was donated on April 10.)

In a May 3 interview on Fox News radio, Congressman Jim Jordan (R-OH) gave an approving nod to the Bud Light boycott, insisting that a friend of his "wasn't drinking Bud Light" at the White House Correspondents Dinner. But about two weeks earlier, Jordan accepted a $2,500 donation for his reelection campaign from the Anheuser-Busch PAC.

One of the most vocal critics of Anheuser-Busch's partnership with Mulvaney is Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R). Last month, DeSantis announced that "he is directing his state government to launch an inquiry into Bud Light's parent company." The probe will reportedly investigate whether Anheuser-Busch breached its "fiduciary duty" to shareholders by working with Mulvaney. DeSantis said the investigation could lead to "a derivative lawsuit filed on behalf of the shareholders of the Florida pension fund because at the end of the day, there’s got to be penalties when you put business aside to focus on your social agenda at the expense of hardworking people."

Anheuser-Busch has not donated directly to DeSantis' presidential campaign. But in February 2021, Anheuser-Busch donated $50,000 to the Florida committee formerly known as Friends of Ron DeSantis. The committee, now named Empower Parents PAC, stockpiled funds that were transferred in May to a Super PAC supporting DeSantis, Never Back Down.