A Backgrounder by Lisa Graves and Evan Vorpahl
A group called “Consumers’ Research” recently grabbed headlines after announcing a million dollar ad buy against “woke” corporations that have taken a stand against rightwing measures to make it harder for Americans to vote.
CNBC called it a “dark money” group after it refused to disclose who is bankrolling those ads attacking Coca Cola, American Airlines, and Nike.
The ads seem designed to try to chill the named CEOs — and others — from bucking the GOP’s false claims about voter fraud in the 2020 election, which Democrats have dubbed “the Big Lie” that Donald Trump supposedly won the election. According to the election certifications of state officials, Trump lost big, by more than 7 million in popular votes and by 74 Electoral College votes. Trump’s outright lies about the election — which had the highest percentage of voter participation in 60 years — incited a violent insurrection at the Capitol on January 6.
So Who Is Consumers’ Research? Here are three key facts to know:
1. Consumers’ Research was “established” in 1929, but it basically died in 2002 — with zero or almost no income for a decade — only to be reborn in 2013 as a vehicle for amicus briefs tied to GOP Attorneys General. It did not even have a website until a few years ago (2013), but it does have big secret money. So, it is legally true that a group with its name got its start 90+ years ago; and it is also true that it barely existed in this century, until recently.
2. Consumers’ Research has taken positions at odds with … most consumers; it:
- opposed life-saving airbags in cars, fuel efficiency standards, climate change science, rules against junk mail faxes, and even limits on cancer-causing products;
- sided with payday lenders against limits on interest rates;
- attacked the Affordable Care Act and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau;
- And sided with Big Tobacco companies against second-hand smoke regulations.
No wonder it has hardly any followers. As “@ConsumersFirst” on Twitter it has 3,697 followers — that’s fewer than me and I wasn’t established in 1929 — and even fewer on Facebook.
3. Consumers’ Research has had just one known human funder in the past decade: a super rich Chicagoan, Barre Seid, whose identity was kept secret from the public until now. Seid is also believed to be the secret multi-million dollar funder of George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia School of Law, along with (guess who?) Charles Koch. He has been involved in right-wing politics for decades, as detailed in our full report.
Want to know more about Consumers’ Research? We’ve got the receipts here.