Is Anyone Surprised In-N-Out Donated To The GOP? (P.S. They Donated To Democrats Too)

An In-N-Out burger. (vagueonthehow/Flickr Creative Commons)

In-N-Out, makers of the most delicious fast food burger in the country, donated $25,000 to the California Republican Party, according to a public filing on the Secretary of State's website — and now some people want to boycott the SoCal-based burger chain.

We support your right to do whatever you want with your money and your stomach. But is anyone really surprised by the SoCal-based burger chain's support of the GOP?

Have you ever noticed the Bible verses on the bottom of In-N-Out's soda cups? Or the fact that the owner and heiress of the private company, 36-year-old Lynsi Lavelle Snyder-Ellingson, identifies as a devout Christian?

In-N-Out Burgers are served on Safe Kids Day 2017 on April 23, 2017 in Culver City, California. (Photo by Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images for Safe Kids Worldwide )

From a 2014 profile of her in Orange Coast magazine:

Her devotion to Christianity is reflected in a small tattoo on her arm, an Aramaic phrase she scoured the Web to find. "It's Jesus' language," she explains. "It's part of a Bible verse. Matthew 6:10. It says, 'Your kingdom come, your will be done.'" She sports a companion tattoo in Hebrew. "It says, 'Hated.' It references John 15:18, where Jesus says—this is paraphrased—'Do not be surprised when the world hates you, for it hated me.' So yes, those are for me. Those are reminders."

...

After her father's death, the gap in Snyder's life was filled by her deepening religious faith. "It gives me life, and makes me feel strong, and encourages me to stand for others ... knowing what different people in the Bible went though. I'm not getting dragged through the street, or hanged or flogged, [so] I guess I can make it through. It could be worse."

Snyder-Ellingson discusses her faith in this frank video. She talks about the role her relationship with her father, who struggled with drug addiction, played in her choices. Ultimately, she said that after a string of failed marriages, she discovered a deep connection to God.

Her grandparents, Harry and Esther Snyder, founded the chain in 1948 in Baldwin Park. In 2010, Snyder-Ellingson began serving as president of In-N-Out and in 2017, she became the majority owner when she turned 35.

Snyder-Ellingson is famously reclusive, so we don't expect her to comment on In-N-Out's donations to the Republican Party or other political groups.

She and her husband, Sean Ellingson, support a ministry in Orange County called Army of Love that has the goal of training people who have a "yearning to be used by God to serve others." They created the ministry, according to its website, after Lynsi said she saw a vision from God.

The Pew Research Center's Religious Landscape Study found 56% of evangelical Christians identified as Republican or leaning Republican, compared to 28% who said they were Democrats or leaned Democratic. Evangelical Christians also have continued to show strong support for President Donald Trump. So, in that sense, it probably shouldn't be a shock that a company owned someone aligned with evangelical beliefs would give to Republican causes.

That said, it remains unclear whether Snyder-Ellingson's personal beliefs played any role in political giving by the company.

In-N-Out Executive Vice President Arnie Wensinger said in a statement reported in the L.A. Times Thursday that the company "made equal contributions to both Democratic and Republican" political action committees in California in 2018.

The company gave $50,000 this year to Californians for Jobs and a Strong Economy, a political action commitee that helps elects Democrats to the state legislature, according to campaign finance filings. The donation that spurred the boycott backlash was made directly to the California Republical Party.

Check out the Secretary of State's website to see In-N-Out's history of state political contributions and lobbying activity.

In-N-Out isn't the only chain to face a backlash for its political stance. Left-leaning activists have repeatedly called for boycotts of Chick-fil-A, both in the U.S. and in Canada. They're unhappy about the privately held fast food company's donations to organizations that oppose same-sex marriage. None of the Chick-fil-A boycotts seem like they've caught on.

A decade ago, grilled chicken chain El Pollo Loco and local Mexican restaurant El Coyote came under fire because people associated with both businesses had donated to support Prop. 8, a measure to define the only valid marriages as being between a man and a woman.

We have reached out to In-N-Out Burger, and we'd love to hear more about their views on political donations.

UPDATE:

6:22: This story updated with additional information about Snyder-Ellingson's backstory and ministry.

4:46 p.m.: This story was updated to reflect In-N-Out's support for the Californians for Jobs and a Strong Economy and a statement from the company's vice president.

This story originally published at 2:18 p.m.


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