Anti-Trump GrabYourWallet boycott is gaining steam

The anti-Trump #GrabYourWallet campaign is going to need a bigger wallet.

With Donald Trump’s victory in last week’s presidential election, some disappointed voters are betting their wallets can bring about the change they want to see: They’re trying to convince more than two dozen retailers such as Nordstrom (JWN) and Amazon (AMZN) to drop Ivanka Trump products. 

The #GrabYourWallet campaign was hatched by Sue Atencio, a 59-year-old grandmother, and marketing specialist Shannon Coulter, who told CBS MoneyWatch last month the protest was designed to express their concerns over Trump’s boasts about sexual assault. His daughter, Ivanka Trump, has become the focus of the boycott because of what they view as her reliance on her father’s presidential platform to hawk her clothing and shoe lines. 

Since the election, the boycott has picked up steam. Coulter noted that many consumers are looking for ways to register their disappointment in Trump’s victory. The campaign scored one victory earlier this month when retailer Shoes.com said it would remove Ivanka Trump’s shoes from its site.

The campaign is also targeting brands that align themselves with Trump, such as New Balance, which ended up in the crosshairs when one of its company executives made comments supportive of Trump comments and alt-right website The Daily Stormer called the brand “The Official Shoes of White People.”

“Flexing our consumer power is one of the primary ways we can lobby for an inclusive, big-hearted America over a hateful, divisive one,” Coulter noted. “College-educated women in particular are well aware of the epic consumer power they wield, and they’re flexing that power.”

Ivanka Trump’s products are geared toward young, upwardly mobile professional women, the type of college-educated voter who is likely to be concerned about her father’s sexual boasting, as well what his presidency will mean for gender-equality issues. While Ivanka Trump has portrayed herself as a supportive daughter and a proponent of working mothers, critics say she’s using her father’s political gains to further her commercial interests, raising ethical questions. 

Those conflicts were brought into stark relief this week when Ivanka Trump’s company sent an email to fashion writers that promoted a $10,800 gold bracelet she wore during a “60 Minutes” interview about Trump’s presidential plans. 

While her company blamed the seeming opportunism on a “well-intentioned employee,” the move has provided fuel to the #GrabYourWallet movement, prompting more consumers to question how Trump’s family members might profit personally from his White House residency.

“That action on her part revealed in full the crass commercialism of Ivanka Trump as well as how false claim that her primary role here is that of daughter,” Coulter said. “Anyone who criticized Hillary Clinton for cultivating a pay-to-play culture at the Clinton Foundation but isn’t offended by Ivanka Trump’s hawking of a $10,800 diamond bracelet just after a “60 Minutes” interview with her father is a hypocrite.”

While some consumers might find Ivanka Trump’s actions distasteful, there’s no law against her promoting her brand while her father transitions into the presidency. However, if she became an employee of the federal government -- such as serving as a paid adviser -- she would be limited by a federal ethics law from moonlighting outside her government role, said Paul Ryan of Common Cause, a nonprofit that pushes government transparency. 

A bigger issue, Ryan said, is the lack of transparency in Donald Trump’s own business dealings, especially since it’s not clear whether he’ll put his holdings into a blind trust or, if he does, whether his children might run it.

“It’s not a blind trust if his kids are running it,” Ryan said. That would entail the potential for numerous conflicts of interest, such as Trump’s new Washington, D.C., hotel, which leases the building from the government. “The president-elect is both the tenant and the landlord,” Ryan said. “What happens when a dispute over building maintenance costs arises?” 

Ryan predicted that questions about Trump’s business dealings, his role in government and his children’s activities won’t go away anytime soon. “These will dog his administration throughout the coming four years,” he said. “It’ll be an issue that keeps on giving.”