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Patagonia Endorses Political Candidates for the First Time

Patagonia has formally endorsed two U.S. Senate candidates for the first time in its 45-year history. Both individuals are Democrats: Jon Tester who is running for re-election in Montana, and Jacky Rosen who is going up against Republican Sen. Dean Heller in Nevada.

The move is a bold one, even for a company that has never shied away from making the political personal. Not only is this the first time the outdoor-wear purveyor has favored one politician over another so explicitly, it may even be the first time any corporation has done so, according to experts interviewed by the Washington Post.  

“Consumer-facing companies traditionally shy away from taking sides publicly in candidate races, so it would make sense if nothing comparable has happened since Citizens United [v. Federal Election Commission],” Michael S. Kang, a law professor and campaign-finance expert at Northwestern University, told the newspaper, referring to the 2010 Supreme Court decision to give corporations the same rights to political speech as individuals. “Before Citizens United, a public endorsement of this type would’ve been illegal, so it’s a relatively new opportunity in any event.”

But Patagonia says its endorsements are not borne from a desire to get into partisan politics. Rather, it wants to stand up for the “millions of Americans who want to see wild places protected for future generations,” the company wrote in a statement.

“Nevada and Montana are two states where Patagonia has significant company history and a long record of conservation accomplishments, and where the stakes are too high to stay silent,” it noted.

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Patagonia CEO Rose Marcario said the company supports Rosen because she will “fight to protect Nevada’s public lands and the vibrant outdoor industry that depends on them.”

“[Rosen] has a strong record of defending public lands in Congress and protecting our access to clean air and clean waters,” Marcario said. “We need her leadership to protect Nevada’s economy and the basic health of its people, so the business community can thrive and so Nevadans can prosper. I hope all Nevadans vote in this vital election—and when they do, I encourage them to vote for Jacky Rosen.”

Similarly, Yvon Chouinard, who founded Patagonia in 1973, said the brand is stumping for Tester because he “gives a damn about protecting public lands—and, like us, he’s committed to fight back against anyone who doesn’t.”

“He goes to work every day for the 95 percent of Montanans who believe recreation on public lands is a priority, unlike Republicans in Congress who only serve the fossil-fuel industry,” Chouinard added. “He also knows something about living off the land—the only organic farmer in the Senate, and the only one bringing the beef he butchers through airport security when he has to travel to D.C. [Tester] is a real advocate for hunters, hikers and Montana’s thriving outdoor economy at a time when threats to clean air, clean water and public land are worse than we’ve ever seen.”

A longtime supporter of grassroots environmental activism, Patagonia has advocated for the conservation of America’s wild places since its inception. In 2004, it began encouraging its customers to “vote with the planet in mind.”

More recently, in December, the brand spoke out against the Trump administration’s plan to scale down the size of two national monuments in Utah—Bear Ears National Monument and Grand Staircase-Escalante—by 2 million acres, calling it both an “illegal move” and the “largest elimination of protected land in American history.”

In June, Marcario announced Patagonia would be giving its employees paid time off to vote in the midterm elections and encouraged other companies to follow suit.