California Democratic Party Chairman Eric Bauman is calling for a boycott of In-N-Out Burger after the Irvine-based fast-food chain this week donated $25,000 to help Republicans this November.
“Et tu In-N-Out? Tens of thousands of dollars donated to the California Republican Party,” Bauman wrote on Twitter. “It’s time to #BoycottInNOut — let Trump and his cronies support these creeps…perhaps animal style!”
The burger chain started in Southern California decades ago by a Christian family, whose granddaughter Lynsi Snyder still owns the company. It proudly displays its religious views — there’s a Bible verse on some packaging — and has in recent years contributed to Republicans and pro-business causes.
In addition to its $25,000 this week, it donated $30,000 to the GOP in 2017 and $30,000 in 2016. It has also contributed to the California pro-business political action committee, “Californians for Jobs & A Strong Economy,” which helps elect moderate Democrats. Most recently, it gave the PAC $80,000 in 2017.
But the popular fast-food restaurant is facing a wave of backlash in deep-blue California following this week’s contribution, especially on social media.
“Wow, so we all need to stop eating In-N-Out like yesterday,” one person wrote following a tweet of the contribution Monday by a Sacramento Bee reporter.
“This is going to be the hardest breakup I’ll ever have to go through,” another person wrote, followed by another tweet reading “This is the best California publicity Shake Shack could ever ask for.”
But some social media users who identified as conservatives and Republicans cheered the contribution, including the spokesman for Republican John Cox, running for California governor.
“Time to go buy a double double animal style,” Matt Shupe wrote on Twitter.
Another Twitter user wrote “Wait, does this mean California liberals (basically most of the state) won’t eat In-N-Out anymore? Shorter lines?!”
Jim Brulte, chairman of the California Republican Party, noted the restaurant had given to the party and to a PAC that supports Democrats.
“Like many businesses in California, In-N-Out Burger gives to Republicans and Democrats,” Brulte said. “If Chairman Bauman is upset about In-N-Out contributions, maybe he should ask the moderate Democrat caucus to give back the money.”
Hours after Bauman’s tweet appeared and a furor erupted on social media, John Vigna, spokesman for the state Democratic Party, said Bauman’s tweet merely represents his opinion and is not the position of the party.
“Chair Bauman’s personal tweet reflects his belief that he shouldn’t support companies that support the Trump agenda,” Vigna said in a statement.
In-N-Out Burger issued a statement in response to the social media outcry.
“We have been fortunate to do business in this great state for almost 70 years. While it is unfortunate that our contributions to support both political parties in California has caused concern with some groups, we believe that bipartisan support is a fair and consistent approach that best serves the interests of our company and all of our customers,” said Arnie Wensinger, vice president of the company.
In-N-Out’s political impact of the contributions to the Republican Party has been magnified by social media, said Darry Sragow, publisher of the California Target Book. But, he said, it’s unclear how political backlash will affect business.
“The question is whether the folks at In-N-Out have bitten off more than they can chew,” Sragow said. “The answer to how much impact this is going to have on the sale of double-doubles lies in what’s happened for Chick-fil-A, which has taken a lot of heat for stances its owners have taken.
“But Chick-fil-A just opened a new location in the lobby of an office building in the heart of downtown Los Angeles, and the line is always 20 to 30 people deep,” he said.
Chick-fil-A was ensnared in controversy in 2012 for comments against same-sex marriage by a company executive.
Editor’s Note: This story was updated at 11 a.m. on Aug. 30, 2018, to clarify that Californians for Jobs & a Strong Economy does not give to Republican candidates, just moderate Democrats. It was updated at noon with Brulte’s comments. Vigna’s comments were added at 2 p.m. Wensinger’s comments were added at 4:30.