U.S. presidential hopeful Mitt Romney is certainly working to shed his image as a rich Republican who is out of touch with the issues facing the 98 percent of American households earning less than $250,000 a year.
On Sunday the Mitt Romney and his wife took the opportunity in Tampa, Fla., where the GOP National Convention is presently being held, to point out how much the family loves the retail outlets of Costco Wholesale Corporation (Nasdaq: COST).
"It's got great produce," said Ann Romney on Fox News Sunday when asked by Chris Wallace about their attraction to the membership warehouse chain of the Issaquah, Wash.-based company.
"She also got me one of these three-packs of shirts the other day from Costco," Mitt added a little later in the conversation. "And they're very nice shirts."
Nice shirts, bought from a company whose co-founder and, until January, CEO is a major donor to Barack Obama's re-election campaign. James Sinegal and his wife June hosted a private fundraiser for the presidential incumbent at their home in Hunts Point, Wash., in June. James is also scheduled to speak next week at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.
The Romney's endorsement of a major American retail outlet should obviously not be considered a call of support for the politics that the company's co-founder staunchly backs. However, the kind words about Costco by the Republican presidential hopeful inadvertently reminds Americans that -- contrary to much of the partisan rhetoric coming out of right-leaning think tanks and trade groups -- liberal Democrats are just as capable of creating mega capitalist ventures.
Costco, the nation's fifth-largest retailer, is a particularly interesting company for the Romneys to endorse; it pays a higher-than-average hourly wage and better benefits than its industry peers. The company has taken a different tack than many of its peers - instead of slashing wages to the bone to keep Wall Street happy and then dealing with high employee turnover; the company has decided to pay its employees rates that lower turnover and cut training costs It has decided to find other ways to be profitable.
"Costco's employees have golden handcuffs," said Bill Dreher, director of retail strategy at brokerage firm Newedge.
Whether Costco's relatively generous policies towards its employees is result of its CEO's political views is debatable; what isn't is the idea that liberal Democrats don't know how to do capitalism as well. Some right-leaning publications have even taken pains to point out that most of America's wealthiest are in fact Democrats, albeit the ratio is close enough to 50-50 to suggest the masters of wealth and enterprise have no general political affiliation.
Here are a list of some retail CEOs or company founders and the political parties they supported in the last presidential election:
Hewlett-Packard Company (NYSE: HPQ) President and CEO Meg Whitman
Former (now deceased) CEO of Sears Holdings Corporation (NASDAQ: SHLD) Edward Brennan
McDonald's Corporation (NYSE: MCD) CEO James Skinner
Bed Bath & Beyond Inc. (NASDAQ: BBBY) co-founder Leonard Feinstein
Founder and CEO of Chick-fil-A, S. Truett Cathy
Sherwin-Williams Company (NYSE: SHW) CEO Christopher Conner
Former CEO of FedEx Kinko's Kenneth May
Former Albertson's CEO Gary Michael
Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ: MSFT) founder Bill Gates
Former McDonald's CEO Jack Greenberg
Former CEO of Levi Strauss & Co. Philip Marineau
Kinko's founder Paul Orfalea
Former Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ: YHOO) CEO Terry Semel
Starbucks Corporation (NASDAQ: SBUX) founder Howard Schultz
The Men's Wearhouse, Inc. (NYSE: MW) CEO George Zimmer
Staples, Inc. (NASDAQ: SPLS) Founder and CEO Tom Stemberg