Public messaging vs. internal practices
By Dave Anderson
In advertisements, Coors reaches out to women, Latinos and gays while
the family behind the beer company gives millions of dollars to
anti-choice and anti-immigrant organizations.
That's the conclusion of
a lengthy investigative article by Zoe Greenberg and Brie Shea for RH
Reality Check, an on-line daily publication about sexual and
reproductive health and justice issues.
The company started out as a small, regional brewery. Today the firm
is very successful. Coors Light is the second most popular beer in the
U.S. In 2005, Coors merged with Molson (a Canadian brewer) and in 2007
entered into a joint venture with SABMiller (a British-South African
multinational brewing and beverage company headquartered in London).
Greenberg and Shea found that the "Coors family foundations have
contributed at least $12.5 million to conservative organizations in
the past six years alone, making the Coors one of the most formidable
right-wing donor families on the national stage today."
At the same time, the Coors companies contribute thousands of dollars
to Latino and black community groups and have introduced
gender-inclusive workplace policies. Coors extended benefits to
same-sex couples long before equal marriage was legal.
The companiesí public messaging and internal practices seem to clash
with the family membersí politics and the companies claim to be
separate from the family.
However, Greenberg and Shea cite public records revealing that"Coors
family members ó including those who control the familyís charitable
foundations ó retain substantial ownership and control of the
for-profit companies that carry their name."
Greenberg and Shea say the family is a major funder of the right-wing
A prime example is their funding of the fight against the Affordable
Care Actís birth control benefit.
Between 2009 and 2014, the Coors family foundations contributed
$380,000 to the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, the nonprofit law
firm behind many of the challenges to the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
The Becket Fundís most well-known client is Hobby Lobby, the arts and
crafts supplies chain that objected on religious grounds to the ACAís
mandate that employee insurance plans cover contraception. When the
case came before the U.S. Supreme Court, the company won. The Becket
Fund also represented religiously affiliated nonprofits, such as
Wheaton College, in an effort to eliminate insurance coverage for
birth control for employees of religious institutions.
The Coors family has also contributed thousands of dollars to
right-wing womenís groups. In 2014, Jeffrey Coors and John Coors each
gave $25,000 to Women Speak Out PAC, the super PAC of the anti-choice
Susan B. Anthony List. The groupís declared goal is to "reduce and
ultimately end abortion."
Between 2009 and 2014, the family foundations also gave $190,000 to
the Independent Womenís Forum (IWF), which The New York Times
editorial board characterized as "a right-wing public policy group
that provides pseudofeminist support for extreme positions that are in
fact dangerous to women."
An IWF spokeswoman testified in Congress against gun control after the
Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, claiming that "guns make women
safer." The group opposed the Violence Against Women Act, arguing that
it has been a source of "waste, fraud, and abuse of taxpayer
resources" and defended Rush Limbaugh when he called a college student
a "prostitute" and a "slut" for her support of the ACA birth control
While Coors company marketers brag about its bilingual advertising and
scholarships for Latino students, the family has been bankrolling
anti-Latino and anti-immigrant groups. Between 2010 and 2011, the
Coorsí Castle Rock Foundation contributed $50,000 to the Center for
Equal Opportunity, a small rightwing think tank relentlessly opposed
to bilingual education.
Between 2009 to 2014, the Coors family foundations also gave $800,000
to the Heritage Foundation, which has become increasingly hostile to
immigrant rights. In 2013, Heritage fired a senior policy analyst
after journalists discovered that he had written a dissertation
arguing that Hispanic immigrants had IQs that were "substantially
lower than that of the white native population."
None of this is too surprising to anyone familiar with the familyís
history. In 1966, Joseph Coors was elected to the University of
Colorado Board of Regents. He wanted to defund Black and Chicano
Studies, ban the radical Students for a Democratic Society from campus
and make faculty members sign a loyalty oath promising they wouldn't
criticize the government. He wasn't too successful.
But starting in the 1970s, the Coors have had a powerful impact on
U.S. politics. In fact, Joe Coors helped establish the aforementioned
Heritage Foundation, which would become the nationís most influential
right-wing think tank, providing guidance for the Reagan and both Bush
administrations as well as Newt Gingrichís "Contract for America."
Coors associates helped create and support the Christian right, which
demonized gays and feminists. Under Reagan, environmental regulations
were undermined by Coors associates James Watt (Interior Secretary)
and Anne Burford (Environmental Protection Agency chief).
In 1977, the brewery workers in Golden went on strike over a
companyimposed contract that included cuts in seniority and violations
of workersí human rights. Strikers were particularly angry about
having to take polygraph (lie detector) tests where they were
questioned about their sex lives, politics and drug use. Jeff Coors,
the president of the company then, said that agreeing to union demands
was like "inviting the Russians in to take over America."
Soon a broad coalition of labor unions, African American groups,
Latino organizations, womenís rights associations and gay- and
lesbian-rights alliances led a boycott against Coors. The workers lost
but the boycott went on for many years and seriously damaged the
firmís sales. The company changed some of its internal practices and
has sponsored a lot of minority sporting and cultural events. But the
family continues to be a powerful backward-looking rightwing force.
This opinion column does not necessarily reflect the views of Boulder Weekly.