Bil and I were talking a couple weeks ago about the former owner of Bolthouse Farms giving $100,000 to support the anti-gay ballot initiative in California. Bolthouse Farms makes a popular line of organic fruit drinks. I told Bil that I'd look up William Bolthouse's donation history. People don't just give $100k to a homophobic cause as the first political donation of their life.
I found quite a bit of history on William Bolthouse, with donations to extreme right-wing organizations dating back all the way to at least 2000 when he was still in charge of the juice company and had a large stake in it. I also found out that the Bolthouse Foundation, founded and funded by the Bolthouse family, was giving to quite a few causes that I personally wouldn't have supported or wanted to have inadvertently supported.
Quite a few of you have e-mailed the company looking for answers, and they've denied connection with the Bolthouse Foundation. Other people are planning direct actions around this, so I dug deeper to make sure I was correct. Let's just say that it isn't accurate to say that they're completely separate organizations. That's all after the jump.
One of the big questions that came up was How much stake does William Bolthouse currently have in the juice company?
His family owned most of the company before they were bought-out in 2005 by Madison Dearborn Partners, a Chicago-based private equity firm. Before that, he had donated both to the Bush campaign and to the Campaign for Working Families, Gary Bauer's extremist PAC. He had already co-founded the Bolthouse Foundation private charity that, in 2006, received all of its donations from the Bolthouse family. Bolthouse Foundation gave over $6 million to the National Christian Foundation, a massive conservative Christian funding arm that funnels money to smaller groups, both ministerial and political, that work to promote a fundamentalist Christian worldview.
Bolthouse Farms (the juice company), the Bolthouse Foundation (the private charity), and the National Christian Foundation all have mission statements that focus on doing God's work as based on a fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible.
(Two notes here. First, the Bolthouse Farms Wikipedia page said at one point that 43% of the company was still family owned. I've found nothing to support that. Also, Sarah Posner's Washington Spectator article from April 1, 2007, said that the Foundation was funded by the company. A Bolthouse Farms spokeswoman said she "was incorrect," and neither she nor the Washington Spectator have answered my request for a source.)
The official Bolthouse response about the connection between the Farm and the Foundation has been (emphasis mine):
Thank you for sharing your thoughts and comments with us. The Bolthouse Foundation is a private foundation funded by some of the former owners of Wm. Bolthouse Farms, Inc. The foundation is a separate entity and is not connected to Bolthouse Farms in any way. Furthermore, they do not receive financial support or benefit from the profits of Bolthouse Farms. We appreciate your concern and apologize for the confusion. Thank you for taking the time to contact us, and we hope you will continue to enjoy our products.
The Bolthouse Farms spokesperson I called repeated that assertion, even though she was unsure she could provide evidence that William Bolthouse is not currently receiving money from the company. Bolthouse Farms did not provide any documentation requested by the time of publication.
The assertion that they're not connected "in any way" is far from true, based on a couple things I found.
Andre Radandt took over as CEO and president of Bolthouse Farms in 2002 and became the chairman of the board after William Bolthouse was bought-out in 2005. He was mentored for the position by William Bolthouse himself for 10 years before taking the helm for him, and he promised to continue Bolthouse's mission of using the farm as a platform for ministry:
"Stewardship and integrity have always been a part of the business and have been well-established culturally," Andre told Business Reform recently. "My job is to preserve that. The stewardship part is about protecting the profitability of the company. That's one of the main sources of satisfaction we get from what we do. The integrity side involves using the business as a platform for ministry. Internally, we're very careful about who we hire. Externally, we support a lot of ministries in the area - when they need something, we get it for them."
He doesn't get any more specific about what organizations get money from the farm or what he means by "using the business as a platform for ministry," but I'd bet good money that it's going to anti-gay Christian fundamentalism considering his close relationship with William Bolthouse.
Andre Radandt also married Lisa Bolthouse Radandt, the daughter of William Bolthouse, making him the son-in-law of the guy who gave $100k to the anti-gay ballot initiative. Son-in-laws don't always see eye-to-eye with their fathers-in-law, but Radant was mentored and groomed for his position for over a decade by his father-in-law. Remember, he was being mentored by someone, who, during the same time period, was donating money to the Bush campaign and to Gary Bauer's PAC.
The Radandts are incredibly rich off the juice company. Not just "send your kids to private school and live in a gated community" kind of rich, but "buy an ornately appointed mansion on the west coast, give it away for free because you don't like it, and then build another ornately appointed mansion in its place" kinda of rich. They're rolling in it, and Andre has already said that he gives away a lot of that money. At least he has more sense than his father-in-law does and doesn't go around blabbing about everything he gives money to.
While Andre isn't the center of this controversy, I should add that the company's story is that if you buy a bottle of their juice right now, the money won't go, at all, to William Bolthouse. Instead, he's using money the company made on juice and vegetables before the buyout (that we were buying then not knowing what he was going to do with it). Now Andre's getting that money. What's to say that he won't go ahead and do the same thing?
The Bolthouse Foundation and Bolthouse Farms: Not entirely disconnected
After looking through the Bolthouse Foundation's most recently available IRS Form 990, it appears Andre Radandt and his wife Lisa Bolthouse Radandt are trustees of the Bolthouse Foundation. The chairman of the board of Bolthouse Farms and his wife are on the board of trustees of the Bolthouse Foundation. The Farm and the Foundation are definitely connected via these two family members.
While there's a chance they kicked Andre Radant off the Foundation board in that time, the Company spokeswoman didn't responded to my request for documentation.
The Foundation is set up so that someone from Bolthouse Properties, LLC, is always on the board of trustees. The state of California's website doesn't offer any information on what this third Bolthouse holding does or who owns it. It has been speculated that Bolthouse Properties LLC owns the land that Bolthouse Farms uses to grow crops. Most likely owner of Bolthouse Properties, LLC? William Bolthouse.
Both the Foundation and the Company have similar philosophies.
The purpose of The Bolthouse Foundation is to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ by supporting charitable and religious organizations whose ministry, goals, and operating principles are consistent with evangelical Christianity as described in The Bolthouse Foundation Statement of Faith.
The purpose of this Company is to glorify God through our business transactions, our work, and our relationships. It is further our desire to bring honor and glory to the Name of Jesus Christ by following God's Word in all of our dealings with employees, suppliers, and customers. God's Work as contained in His Inspired Scriptures will be the final authority in all Corporate matters concerning direction, decisions, and disputes.
Check out that "Bolthouse Foundation Statement of Faith." It wouldn't even include a majority of Christians.
Interestingly enough, since I posted last on Bolthouse Farms, the Foundation's website has changed. Here's a saved version from Google from a couple weeks ago (click to enlarge and read):
And here's the site as it appears now:
Notice how the second takes extra-special care to state "No members of The Bolthouse Foundation have a financial interest in Bolthouse Farms, and The Bolthouse Foundation receives neither financial support nor benefits from the profits of Bolthouse Farms"? Except, of course, two of the trustees. Small potatoes, I suppose.
It's not a great website, either. It's one that they set up and leave so they can do their business in person or by mail. The fact that it was changed just recently, in a way that specifically responds to what people are saying about them, is suspicious. If the Foundation has no interest in the Company, why change the site?
I asked the Bolthouse Farms spokeswoman that as well. She replied, "You'll have to ask the Foundation."
The Foundation gets its money from William Bolthouse, and William Bolthouse's philosophy, mission, even members of his family, still run the Company. Family members are on both sides of that aisle. The Foundation is looking out for the Company's interests. The money that funds the Foundation originally came from the Company and may continue via other family member's private donations that still work for the Company. They are not completely independent entities.
Several people are considering demonstrating because of this. A boycott would be a bad idea, as Bil pointed out last night in an email to a few people who have written to us:
For a boycott to win, the entity being boycotted has to roll over and give in to the demands. This is never going to happen in this case. The company's mission statement practically reads like King James himself wrote it. This sets us up to automatically be unsuccessful as a boycott.
So we're not asking people not to buy the juice. It's a free country and the LGBT community is all about diversity and personal choices.
I defer to him because of his long experience in LGBT activism, and what he says makes sense. A boycott of Bolthouse Farms would be about as successful as any of the AFA's boycotts (that is, not at all).
Instead, this is more of an informational campaign. I'm posting to educate our community and try to discover the truth about the matter.
Personally, after finding out all of this, I'm not going to buy their products anymore. There's just way too much baggage, and way too many alternatives on the market. What you do with the information is up to you.