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In-N-Out executive and wife donate thousands to Trump

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A top In-N-Out executive and his wife have donated thousands of dollars to President Donald Trump, even as many brands shy away from association with the president.

COO Mark Taylor and his wife, Traci Taylor — who is the half-sister of In-N-Out president and owner Lynsi Snyder and who lists In-N-Out as her employer — have donated more than $15,000 to Trump and the national Republican party since August 2016.

Both Mark and Traci Taylor hit the limit for the maximum that an individual can donate to a candidate in donations to Trump in the 2016 election. In fact, both exceeded the limit and had thousands of dollars in donations returned.

Since Trump’s election, the Taylors have continued to donate thousands of dollars to Trump and the Republican National Committee.

Out of the 46 top executives currently leading 21 major restaurant industry companies, Mark Taylor was one of only two who have donated directly to Trump’s campaign. The other was Paul Brown, CEO of Arby’s parent company Inspire Brands, who paid $367.69 in January 2017 to attend “an event attended by a delegation of business leaders during the President’s inauguration,” according to an Inspire Brands representative.

“Politics aside, most executives from widely respected, major brands have avoided any connection with Trump,” Chris Allieri, founder at brand consultancy Mulberry & Astor, told Business Insider. “For their customers … and for their employees — an alliance with Trump and what he stands for does not make good business sense.”

In-N-Out’s Mark and Traci Taylor maxed out on Trump donations in 2016

Donald Trump.
Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Mark Taylor has been a top executive at In-N-Out for more than two decades, with roughly 35 years of experience at the chain.

Taylor was at the helm of In-N-Out before Lynsi Snyder — the sole granddaughter of founders Harry and Esther Snyder — assumed the position in 2010. In the 2000s, Mark Taylor controlled trusts holding most of Lynsi Snyder’s stake in the company. Snyder inherited these stakes when she turned 35 in 2017, taking full control of the company.

Today, Taylor is chief operating officer of In-N-Out. He is also Snyder’s brother-in-law, married to her half-sister, Traci. Snyder and Traci share a mother in Lynda Lou Perkins. Snyder is the sole child of her father, In-N-Out heir Guy Snyder, who died of a drug overdose in 1999, meaning Traci did not inherit an ownership stake in the company.

Mark Taylor donated $2,700 to Donald J. Trump for President in August 2016, the limit of what an individual can donate to any candidate, according to public Federal Election Commission records. Originally, Taylor made two donations of $2,700; $2,700 was returned. Brendan Fischer of the Campaign Legal Center told Business Insider that this return would typically indicate that an individual exceeded the maximum donation limit, likely by accident.

Taylor donated an additional $1,000 to the Trump Make America Great Again Committee on November 3, 2016.

The In-N-Out COO made three donations to the Republican National Committee: $200 on November 2, 2016; $100 on November 7, 2016; and $2,700 on April 11, 2017. All said, FEC data shows Taylor donated $6,700 to Trump and the Republican party since 2016.

Traci Taylor, who lists In-N-Out as her employer in public FEC documents, has made even more significant donations to Trump’s campaigns. She has donated $8,600 to Trump and the Republican party since October 2016:

  • $5,000 was donated to the Trump Make America Great Again Committee on October 16, 2016. $1,000 went to the RNC, and the rest went to Trump’s campaign. $1,300 was returned so that Traci would not exceed the $2,700 individual donation limit.
  • $250 went to the Trump Make America Great Again Committee on May 8, 2017.
  • Another $1,000 went to the Trump Make America Great Again Committee on March 9, 2018.
  • $1,000 was donated to America First Action, INC, a Super PAC dedicated to reelecting Trump, on July 26, 2018.
  • Since July 2017, Traci Taylor has donated $2,650 to the Republican National Committee in 20 payments, with the most recent recorded donation in late June 2019.

Trump’s 2016 campaign seems to have motivated the Taylors (no relation to this reporter) to donate. Prior to August 2016, neither Mark nor Traci Taylor had donated to a federal political candidate since George Bush’s 1988 presidential run.

It is unclear what Traci Taylor’s role is at In-N-Out. The chain declined Business Insider’s request for comment on this story. Neither Traci nor Mark Taylor responded to Business Insider’s request for comment.

In-N-Out is no stranger to politics

In-N-Out burger.
Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

While the Taylors may be new to political donations, In-N-Out is no stranger to politics.

Esther Snyder, the cofounder and longtime on-again-off-again head of In-N-Out, donated tens of thousands of dollars to the RNC and various Republican candidates prior to her death in 2006. There is no evidence that Lynsi Snyder, the current president, has made any political donations.

In-N-Out received backlash over a $25,000 donation to California’s Republican Party in August 2018. At the time, the company countered by saying it donated to both the right and left.

2018 filings show the company donated $50,000 to Californians for Jobs & a Strong Economy, a pro-business PAC led by moderate Democrats that garners donations from companies including Chevron, PG&E, and Walmart. In-N-Out also donated $25,000 to New Way California, a PAC founded by Republicans Kristin Olsen, Chad Mayes, and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

In-N-Out’s donations were similarly split between pro-business Democrats and Republicans in 2017 and 2016, with Californians for Jobs & a Strong Economy donations balancing contributions to the California Republican Party. Prior to 2016, the company had not made any significant donations to either the Democratic or Republican party in California since the early 2000s.

Many fast-food chains donate to federal campaigns and PACs, typically supporting right-leaning, pro-business groups. There are no records of In-N-Out making donations to federal campaigns, PACs, or political parties, perhaps because of the fact that the chain’s locations are concentrated in California.

Taylor is a rare top executive at a major fast-food chain donating directly to Trump

Trump and a fast-food feast.
Susan Walsh/AP

Restaurant industry executives have largely avoided actions that could link their companies to Trump, despite rumors about chains and executives donating to the president’s reelection. While Trump served fast food from chains including Chick-fil-A, McDonald’s, and Wendy’s multiple times for championship athletes, companies have declined to comment on the events.

Out of the 46 top executives currently leading 21 major restaurant companies, including McDonald’s, Chick-fil-A, and Yum Brands, Mark Taylor was one of only two who have ever donated to Trump’s campaigns.

The other recorded donation was from Paul Brown, CEO of Inspire Brands, the parent company of Arby’s, Buffalo Wild Wings, and Sonic. Brown was formerly CEO of Arby’s, founding Inspire Brands and leading the company in acquiring Buffalo Wild Wings and Sonic. FEC records show that Brown, who has donated to the campaigns of Republican politicians including Sen. David Perdue, Sen. Ben Sasse, and Sen. Pat Toomey, donated $367.69 to the Trump Make America Great Again Committee on January 5, 2017.

“The donation covered the cost of an event attended by a delegation of business leaders during the President’s inauguration,” a representative for Inspire Brands told Business Insider in an email.

Business Insider examined the donations of CEOs and other top executives at 21 major restaurant companies. The executives whose donations were examined included the leaders of the 20 largest chains in the US by sales, CEOs of restaurant parent companies such as Dine Brands and Inspire Brands, and top executives at other well-known brands.

The most common donation for these executives was to their company’s PACs, which do not typically donate to presidential candidates.

Two former CEOs and chairmen (not counted in the 46) made major donations to Hillary Clinton: Sonic CEO Cliff Hudson, who donated more than $61,000 to Clinton in the 2016 race and left Sonic in November 2018, and Howard Schultz, who donated $10,800 to the Hillary Victory Fund in 2016 and teased his own presidential run after officially cutting ties with Starbucks in 2017.

John Schnatter, the founder and former CEO of Papa John’s, was a rare executive who donated to Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, giving $1,000. Schnatter was ousted at the pizza chain following his controversial remarks about NFL players kneeling during the national anthem and reports he said the n-word on a company conference call.

Trump nominated Andy Puzder, a Trump donor and the outspoken CEO of Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s parent company CKE Restaurants, as labor secretary. Puzder withdrew from consideration in February 2017 following reports of his ex-wife accusing him of abuse, attacks on his business record, and backlash over his employing an undocumented person as a housekeeper. In April 2017, he stepped down as CKE’s CEO.

Boycotts have become the norm for pro-Trump brands

President Donald Trump.
Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

A wide range of brands tied to Trump have faced backlash in recent years.

Equinox and SoulCycle recently faced boycotts after news broke that chairman Stephen Ross was holding a fundraiser for Trump in his house in the Hamptons, New York. Home Depot shoppers threatened to boycott after cofounder Bernie Marcus, who retired from the company in 2002, said he planned to donate to the president’s 2020 reelection bid. #GrabYourWallet provides an entire list of companies with ties to Trump that it says anti-Trump shoppers should avoid.

Trump supporters frequently respond to these boycott threats by doubling down in their support of the brands.

“There’s much that has been said and done by Trump and the Republican Party that wouldn’t sit well with many consumers,” Allieri said. “On the other hand, pro-Trump consumers will be angered by a so-called ‘left-leaning mob’ calling the shots.”

He added: “For a brand like In-N-Out which has California, one of the bluest of blue states, in its DNA and has greatly benefited from Hollywood and celebrity endorsement, it doesn’t make much [sense] for its executives or founders being seen embracing Trump.”

In-N-Out is in a unique position as a private, family-owned chain, in contrast to publicly traded companies like Papa John’s, McDonald’s, or Yum Brands, which owns Taco Bell, KFC, and Pizza Hut.

Lynsi Snyder and other executives rarely give interviews, and details of the mysterious family’s private life have mostly leaked out in court filings. Snyder is famously reclusive, struggling with addiction and surviving two kidnapping attempts before becoming In-N-Out’s president.

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