Is the GOP Congress Calling for a Patagonia Boycott?
And is that even legal?
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Did the House Natural Resources Committee just call for a boycott of Patagonia? That's what Twitter users are suggesting after the committee tweeted this:
The image is a mirror of the campaign the outdoor-clothing brand launched on Monday, in response to Trump's executive order to shrink Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments. Same black background, similar fonts, similar arrangement of text and messaging.
Of course, our elected representatives throwing shade at a private, highly respected gear maker is, well, unusual. And members of the public are pointing out that doing so might be unethical, and possibly illegal.
Take the comment from David Feinman, the director of government relations for the Conservation Lands Foundation. His tweet drew the attention of Ben Goldey, the digital director for the Natural Resources Committee.
Feinman responded with this email the House committee also sent out on Friday:
We've seen a copy of the email, and it does appear to be authentic. Note the subject line, which may constitute a call for a boycott of Patagonia goods. Kathleen Clark, a professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis, wasn't sure what to make of the statement. It could be argued that “don't buy it” means “don't buy into the idea,” rather than don't buy the products, she said.
And even if the House committee was telling the public not to shop at a private company, it's unclear if that action is illegal. “But there's a general principle that you don't use public office for private gain,” Clark says. “And there's a corollary principle that says it's improper to use public office to cause private loss.”
Of course, the substance of the email—that the monument shrinkage is pro-local control—is also an outright lie.
Goldey is no longer tweeting about the apparent boycott.
We aren't aware of any favorability studies that have been conducted comparing Congress's popularity to that of Patagonia, but the reactions of Twitter users leave me with little doubt that the Ventura-based apparel maker has the upper hand.