Anti-Trump Activists at Pepsi Annual Meeting Held at Bay
Free Enterprise Project Moves First to Defend Pepsi CEO from Leftists Who Successfully Targeted Uber and Disney Leaders for Advising Trump Administration
National Center for Public Policy Research Raises Need for Ideological Diversity at Pepsi, Calling Infamous Kendall Jenner Ad a Result of Leftist Ideological Groupthink
New Bern, NC / Washington, D.C. - The anti-Trump barbarians were kept at the gates of today's annual meeting of PepsiCo shareholders in New Bern, North Carolina. But a representative of the National Center for Public Policy Research's Free Enterprise Project (FEP) preempted any potential liberal rabble by defending PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi's service on President Donald Trump's Strategic and Policy Forum. FEP action blunted liberal agitators who have been targeting business leaders working with the Trump Administration.
CEOs serving on President Trump's Strategic and Policy Forum have come under pressure to cease working with the White House as liberal activists are using social media and in-person protests to target specific corporate leaders. This liberal pressure was strong enough to cause Uber CEO Travis Kalanick to quit the board in February. Activists also targeted Disney CEO Bob Iger at Disney's annual meeting in March.
"Liberals hate President Trump so much they are now attacking anyone with the slightest affiliation with the White House," said National Center General Counsel and FEP Director Justin Danhof, Esq., who attended today's meeting and spoke with Nooyi. "Corporate America has shown a great willingness to bend to liberal pressure, so it was important that our message be heard. Nooyi and other corporate leaders should do what's best for their businesses to create jobs here in America and to revive the country's laggard economy, and that may include working with President Trump. It seems liberal activists could care less about Pepsi or the economy. They are simply trying to score political points. Today, we helped ensure that did not happen."
At the meeting, Danhof said:
Ms. Nooyi, thank you for serving on President Trump's Strategic and Policy Forum. Despite your political differences with the President, your service is a credit to your leadership and Pepsi's brand. Unfortunately, liberal agitators are working to harm companies whose leaders dare to work with the President to benefit our nation. Having successfully badgered Uber CEO Travis Kalanick into quitting Trump's board, Fortune recently reported that "lefty activists now are setting their sights on Disney and Pepsi."
We encourage you to steel your spine against such attacks.
Danhof's full statement, as prepared for delivery, is available here.
In response, Nooyi said she was honored to serve on the board, and that companies should seek to have a seat at the table whenever possible. Noting that she may not always agree with President Trump or the other members of the advisory panel, she said she would not shy away from stating her beliefs.
"I was glad to hear Nooyi talk about the value of having a diversity of opinions as it relates to her service with President Trump. Despite being a well-known liberal, she still feels she can work with the President to advance strategic economic goals benefiting all Americans," added Danhof.
Noting the benefits of welcoming diverse opinions, something that Nooyi herself recognizes as a value in her service on President Trump's panel, Danhof also talked to the Pepsi CEO about the company's much ballyhooed Kendall Jenner advertisement.
Following Pepsi's now infamous Kendall Jenner commercial, Investor's Business Daily wrote that, "[h]ad there been even one nonliberal in the room, the ad probably never would have seen the light of day, because conservatives would have warned Pepsi that trying to overtly appeal to liberals. . . almost always backfires, either infuriating liberals themselves or fueling endless calls for more appeasement."
As you take public positions on controversial issues - such as opposing HB2 here in North Carolina or dropping your membership in [the American Legislative Exchange Council] - please consider how it will play with your conservative customers, investors and employees. If one of Pepsi's goals is to create a more inclusive environment, a noticeable aversion to conservative opinions may have the opposite effect.
"The Kendall Jenner commercial is a prime example of how much of the business elite is losing touch with consumers - particularly conservatives and Americans of faith. This is the result of many factors, but particularly when corporations seek to appease liberal activists by bending to their will," said Danhof. "At the Free Enterprise Project, we have worked for years to educate corporate leaders that this is a doomed strategy because liberal appeasement does not exist. Once a company cedes control to a liberal group by dropping memberships in pro-business associations or by funding leftist groups such as Planned Parenthood, more liberal groups come out of the woodwork to demand their pound of flesh."
"Liberal ideological purity is bad for business - it's that simple," added Danhof. "Just ask folks at ESPN, many of whom just lost their jobs, what happens to a brand that focuses on advancing purely liberal positions. Look at the deterioration of the Target and Starbucks brands, where business experts attribute the suffering to the companies promoting socially liberal positions."
Today marks the fourth time the National Center's FEP has participated in the PepsiCo annual shareholder meeting. At previous PepsiCo stakeholder meetings, FEP critiqued how the company leveraged its reputation (or not) on issues such as gender identification and genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and blasted the company's lobbying against proposed food stamp restrictions on soft drink and snack food purchases. In 2014, PepsiCo adopted FEP's shareholder resolution to enhance the company's anti-discrimination policies to protect employees from retaliation for personal political and civic activities.
Launched in 2007, the National Center for Public Policy Research's Free Enterprise Project is the nation's preeminent free-market activist group - focusing on shareholder activism and the confluence of big government and big business. Since 2014, National Center representatives have participated in nearly 100 shareholder meetings to advance free-market ideals in the areas of health care, energy, taxes, subsidies, regulations, religious freedom, food policies, media bias, gun rights, workers' rights and many other important public policy issues. This is the twelfth shareholder meeting the FEP has attended in 2017.
FEP activism has yielded a tremendous return on investment:
- FEP's highly-publicized questioning of support for the Clinton Foundation by Boeing and General Electric helped trigger an FBI investigation of the Clinton Foundation's activities that dominated the 2016 presidential campaign.
- FEP inquiries prompted Facebook to address political bias against conservatives in social media.
- Company executives acknowledged media bias at ABC News (Disney), the Washington Post and CNN (Time Warner) in response to FEP's challenges, which helped to bring about more objective reporting and more balanced political representation.
- FEP's "Employee Conscience Protection Project" strengthened protections for the political beliefs and activities of over five million workers at 13 major U.S. corporations.
So far in 2017, FEP has been featured in media outlets including the New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, Variety, Newsmax TV, Associated Press, Bloomberg, Breitbart, Denver Post, Drudge Report, Business Insider, Orlando Sentinel, National Public Radio, American Family Radio and SiriusXM. In 2016, FEP was also featured in the Washington Times, the Fox News Channel's "Cavuto," the Financial Times, Crain's Chicago Business, the Hollywood Reporter, the Los Angeles Times, Fortune, Newsmax, the Daily Caller, Lifezette, the Seattle Times, the San Francisco Chronicle and the Chicago Tribune among many others. The Free Enterprise Project was also featured in Wall Street Journal writer Kimberley Strassel's 2016 book The Intimidation Game: How the Left is Silencing Free Speech (Hachette Book Group).
The National Center for Public Policy Research, founded in 1982, is a non-partisan, free-market, independent conservative think-tank. Ninety-four percent of its support comes from individuals, less than four percent from foundations and less than two percent from corporations. It receives over 350,000 individual contributions a year from over 96,000 active recent contributors. Sign up for email updates here. Follow us on Twitter at @NationalCenter for general announcements. To be alerted to upcoming media appearances by National Center staff, follow our media appearances Twitter account at @NCPPRMedia.