As If Duck Boots Weren’t Divisive Enough, Donald Trump Is Now Promoting L.L. Bean

Photo: Portland Press Herald/Getty Images.
When news broke of L.L. Bean heiress Linda Bean's excessive donations to a Donald Trump-supporting political action committee, the organizers of #GrabYourWallet quickly added the Maine-based outerwear brand to its list of retailers to avoid. (Bean, who's a member of the company's board of directors, gave $60,000 to the group — way over the personal contribution limit of $5,000, according to the Federal Election Commission.) Some people subsequently decided to forgo duck boots this season because of this revelation, but the president-elect reassured Linda Bean that he'll still be buying L.L. Bean — and he told his supporters to do the same. Earlier this week, the brand's executive chairman released a lengthy statement on Facebook as a response to the troubling accusations that the brand was aligned with any political agenda. "L.L.Bean does not endorse political candidates, take positions on political matters, or make political contributions," he wrote. "Simply put, we stay out of politics." Odds are, the company was surprised when the president-elect took to Twitter to thank Linda Bean for her "great support and courage" this morning.
Trump also encouraged his followers to support Linda Bean (and her family's brand) even more: "Buy L.L.Bean," he wrote, tagging the account for Linda Bean's Perfect Maine. (In the post, Gorman clarified that, "like most large families, the more than 50 family member-owners of the business hold views and embrace causes across the political spectrum, just as our employees and customers do," and that "no individual alone speaks on behalf of the business or represents the values of the company that L.L. built.") Trump's tweet comes after Bean appeared on Fox & Friends this morning, calling the boycott "a case of bullying." Since the president-elect seemingly benefitted from Bean's personal donations to a Trump-backing super PAC, as the Associated Press reported, would a tweet encouraging people to "Buy L.L. Bean" be considered sponsored, by the Federal Trade Commission's standards? That question got explored on social media:
The organization seeks to protect the terms laid out in the Federal Trade Commission Act, which aims to protect consumers against deceptive advertising — and to penalize those businesses or organizations which put misleading messaging out there. This has had a particularly strong impact on bloggers and social media influencers who are paid to post positive reviews or endorsement of products on their channels, and who might not disclose that they're being compensated for their kind words. Don't worry, though: Many concerned citizens are making sure the FTC is aware of Trump's apparent violation of its endorsement guidelines. Still, can — and will — the group take action against the president-elect? We've reached out to the FTC for comment on Trump's twee and whether this action would even be covered under the Federal Trade Commission Act. But there may be a bigger conflict to address in 140 characters: According to the United States Office of Government Ethics, "executive branch employees may not use their Government positions to suggest that the agency or any part of the executive branch endorses an organization (including a nonprofit organization), product, service, or person." We've also reached out to the OGE, and will update our story when we hear back. Katherine DeCelles, a professor at Harvard, told the The Washington Post that having the soon-to-be leader of the United States push a specific product or company is "unprecedented" from an ethics standpoint.
Now, Trump hasn't been sworn in yet, so the OGE's rule might not apply to him just yet. However, incoming White House press secretary Sean Spicer did say the president-elect plans on continuing his Twitter use while in office, WPRI reported. Trump has encouraged boycotts of brands that have gone against him in some way before; now, he's given a thumbs-up to a retailer because someone affiliated with the brand supported him. So, it wouldn't be totally out of the realm of possibility to consider this'll happen again after January 20. Will this whole ordeal have an impact on L.L. Bean's business? The heiress told Fox that the brand has been "getting a lot of fan mail," and that her son, who serves as vice chairman of its board, "says there's been a slight uptick in business, actually." In a statement provided to Refinery29, a spokesperson for L.L. Bean said that "despite these recent developments, [the company's] position remains the same: no political endorsements or contributions. Period." Once again, the brand reiterated that its top priorities were "making boots, selling products and serving our customers."

This story has been updated with a statement from L.L. Bean.

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