L.L. Bean wants off boycott list

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FREEPORT — Saying it is “deeply troubled” at the notion it has a political agenda, Maine retail giant L.L. Bean asked for its removal from a boycott list kept by critics of President-elect Donald Trump.

In a public statement released Sunday, the company’s executive chairman, Shawn Gorman, said 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,” Gorman said.

Shannon Coulter, a California marketing specialist who created the #GrabYourWallet boycott list, said Monday that’s not happening.

She put the company on the list of 75 retailers to shun because of L.L. Bean board member Linda Bean’s donations to help Trump get elected.

“It’s offensive that L.L. Bean is attempting to whitewash Linda Bean’s political activities within a spectrum of political causes among its owners,” she said.

Coulter said xenophobia and racism “are not causes. They are hateful, divisive fear tactics responsible for some of the worst atrocities in human history.”

She said that Linda Bean’s support for “extremism and hate has landed her in the news” before.

“Rather than devote their energies to crafting long, carefully constructed PR statements, we recommend L.L. Bean think long and hard about whether or not Linda Bean’s continued presence on the board is worth losing the volume of consumers the company will continue to lose for as long as she retains formal ties to the company,” Coulter said.

A growing number of online foes of Trump have used social media to denounce L.L. Bean and proclaim that they won’t shop there. But some fans of the incoming president are hailing the retailer as the controversy grows.

L.L. Bean, however, just wants to get out of the political arena.

Gorman said Linda Bean, granddaughter of the retailer’s founder, is one of more than 50 family members involved in the Freeport-based business. He said her support for Trump was personal and had nothing to do with the privately held company.

Coulter said the company can get off the boycott list by dropping Linda Bean from its 10-member board of directors.

Gorman said the retailer has been “a values-driven company” since its founding in 1912 by Leon Leonwood Bean “that has long been inspiring people to live life outdoors.”

L.L. Bean is “singularly focused on offering high-quality, satisfaction-guaranteed products and outstanding customer service in the Maine tradition,” Gorman said.

As a result, he said, it is able to employ 5,000 and donate “tens of millions of dollars to nonprofit organizations promoting environmental stewardship, educational attainment and a host of other worthy causes at the local, state and national levels.”

“Our owners, employees, and customers hold views and embrace causes that are individual and diverse,” Gorman said. “We are united by our love for the outdoors and our guiding principles established back in 1912 by Leon Leonwood Bean himself who believed ‘do unto others’ was not just a saying, but a way of life.”

“We fully acknowledge and respect that some may disagree with the political views of a single member of our 10-person board of directors,” he said.

“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,” he said. “And as every member of the family would agree, no individual alone speaks on behalf of the business or represents the values of the company that L.L. built.”

“With this in mind, we are deeply troubled by the portrayal of L.L.Bean as a supporter of any political agenda,” Gorman said.

Linda Bean came to the boycotters’ attention Friday after the Associated Press reported that her donations to a pro-Trump political action committee exceeded allowable limits. She apparently gave as much as $60,000 to the group.

Steve Collins can be reached at scollins@sunjournal.com.

Linda Bean’s political donations since 2012

• $100,000 to Liberty For All Action Fund

• $60,000 to Making America Great Again LLC

• $37,500 to the Maine Republican Party

• $35,000 to Conservative, Authentic, Responsive Leadership for You and America

• $5,000 to Revolution PAC

• $8,000 to U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin

• $10,400 to U.S. Sen. Rand Paul

• $5,400 to Carly Fiorina

• $2,700 to Donald Trump

• $5,000 for Reinventing a New Direction PAC

An iconic Maine Hunting Shoe is constructed at an L.L. Bean factory. The company is fighting back against the suggestion it should be boycotted because of political contributions by board member and Bean heiress Linda Bean.