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Group Says It’ll Take LL Bean Off Boycott List If Company Takes Linda Bean Off Board

Robert F. Bukaty
Maine Public
Shoppers exit the L.L. Bean retail store in Freeport in March.

An organization that’s encouraging a boycott of L.L. Bean says it will end the campaign if the company removes Linda Bean from its board of directors.

Bean, the heiress to the company’s founder, became the target of the group Grab Your Wallet following reports that she bankrolled a political action committee supporting president-elect Donald Trump.

Currently, Grab Your Wallet puts L.L. Bean among the dozens of companies that consumers should consider boycotting. But the threat is serious enough that Shawn Gorman, the company’s board chairman, posted a statement on the company’s Facebook page.

Gorman says L.L. Bean is disappointed and deeply troubled by the boycott. He also wrote that organizing a boycott against L.L. Bean because of the political interests of one board member is misguided because the company stays out of politics.

“L.L. Bean does not endorse political candidates, take positions on political matters or make political contributions. Simply put, we stay out of politics. To be included in this boycott campaign is simply misguided, and we respectfully request that Grab Your Wallet reverse its position,” he wrote.

But Shannon Coulter, a co-founder of the group, says that won’t happen until L.L. Bean cuts ties with Linda Bean.

“As fans of L.L. Bean’s products, everybody is hoping that the company is really seriously evaluating whether or not Linda Bean’s presence and contributions to the company are worth the damage she continues to inflict on L.L. Bean’s brand and reputation,” she says.

Grab Your Wallet was formed in mid-October, shortly after a tape was released in which Trump bragged in vulgar terms about using his celebrity to kiss and grope women and to convince them to have sex with him.

Coulter, a media marketing specialist based in San Francisco, says the group’s purpose is to influence consumer spending habits — particularly those of women — to force retailers and other companies to end business relationships with Trump and his family.

“It’s really not about politics. It’s about common decency and respect,” she says.

While L.L. Bean does not appear to have a business relationship with Trump or his family, Linda Bean is behind a political action committee that bought ads and other communications to support his candidacy.

Linda Bean is one of the company’s 10-member board of directors and the granddaughter of Leon Leonwood Bean, the company’s founder. According to finance reports, her PAC spent over $60,000 last year supporting Trump’s candidacy with Bean, a prolific conservative donor, contributing most of the money.

The PAC, Making America Great Again LLC, made news last week after it was notified by the FEC that it had exceeded individual contribution limits, including three separate donations totaling $60,000 by Bean herself. Additionally, the FEC letter said the PAC had failed to file on time for several independent expenditures for ads and communications supporting Trump and opposing Hillary Clinton.

A spokesman for the FEC said federal law prohibits him from commenting on the potential enforcement cases. However, Bean’s PAC on Friday sent two updated filings to address the issues outlined in the FEC letter.

One filing clarifies that Bean’s group is a super PAC, which allows groups and individuals to contribute unlimited amounts of money to the committee. Had Bean’s group originally filed as a super PAC, Bean’s donations would have been legal under federal law. The group has also filed an amended independent expenditure report, as requested by the FEC.

It’s unclear whether the PAC will face any fines for the late filings. It has until Feb. 8 to file any additional information to the FEC.

Bean is a prolific donor to conservative candidates and causes. She gave over $30,000 to Maine-based PACs this year, including one headed by Gov. Paul LePage. Bean has also contributed to federal PACs and candidates, including Republican Sen. Rand Paul and a PAC supporting former presidential candidate Carly Fiorina.

Grab Your Wallet specifically cites Linda Bean’s political action committee as the reason people should consider boycotting L.L. Bean.

The reaction on social media to the boycott is mixed. Responses to Gorman’s post on the company Facebook page are largely supportive of the retailer. But respondents to Coulter’s Twitter feed, which has helped elevate previous boycott efforts, seem more willing to shun L.L. Bean’s products.

Coulter says the company has cause to be concerned. After all, women, the boycott’s target audience, are major influencers in retail spending patterns. And it’s not just what they buy, but what they recommend, or don’t, to others.

Still, it’s unclear whether L.L. Bean will succumb to Grab Your Wallet’s demands. The group has nearly 80 companies on its list, from Walmart to Kawasaki and MillerCoors to the National Enquirer.

Six companies have been taken off the boycott list, although in some instances it’s not clear whether they bowed to the pressure or just stopped selling Trump products.

L.L. Bean did not respond to calls and emails seeking further comment, nor did Linda Bean.

Journalist Steve Mistler is Maine Public’s chief politics and government correspondent. He is based at the State House.