Green Cleaning Goes National

Courtney Miller

The spanking received by the Romney campaign last week for its failure to comprehend the basics of the Venn diagram has provided me a perfect opportunity to discuss the rare intersection of two fields that consume most of my time – house-cleaning and politics.

Back in February, several reporters (Glenn Greenwald at Salon.com, Mother Jones, Rachel Maddow) aired the dirty laundry of one of Mitt Romney’s national campaign finance chairs – Frank Vandersloot – the billionaire CEO of Melaleuca, Inc., a wellness-product company that sells purportedly-green cleaning products. According to Greenwald, during his decades in Idaho, Vandersloot threw around his weight and money to influence local politics, often as an anti-gay rights activist. This high-profile involvement included the following:

  1. In 1999, in response to Idaho Public Television airing a documentary about how teachers can educate kids about sexual orientation, Vandersloot spearheaded a billboard campaign condemning IPT for “promot[ing] the homosexual lifestyle to…children.”
  2. His wife donated $100,000 to California’s Proposition 8 campaign, designed to “eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry.”
  3. When a local Idaho reporter broke the award-winning story of how the Boy Scouts organization covered up a Mormon Scout master pedophilia scandal, Vandersloot took out a full-page ad in the paper outing the reporter as gay. Subsequently, the reporter’s partner was fired from his job and the reporter was harassed.
  4. To cap all of this off, Vandersloot has allegedly bullied reporters into retracting their articles, serving takedown notices and threatening lawsuits over defamation and copyright infringement.

The story surfaced again in May when Vandersloot teamed up with FoxNews to lambast the Obama campaign for engaging in “political terrorism” by listing Vandersloot as a anti-gay-rights Romney donor on a transparency-oriented blog. This Maddow video, if you care to learn more, details the jaw-dropping gymnastics of FoxNews and Vandersloot as they attempt to (a) attribute Melaleuca’s lost revenue to this late April blog post despite having tried to blame Maddow for this loss in March, soon after the initial story broke; and (b) drum up large amounts of fundraising cash for the Romney campaign. Classy.

The story is ironic in so many ways, not the least of which is the fact that Melaleuca’s lost revenues are a direct product of the uber-pure free market capitalism that the conservative right so passionately wants us all to abide. If participants in the market no longer like a product – and all that it represents – then they will no longer choose to purchase it. This is exactly the way a free market should work.

And so this story serves as a reminder that our efforts at “green living” don’t stop at purchasing ostensibly green products. Green living requires a consciousness about the overall impact of the products we purchase. Vandersloot and Melaleuca shouldn’t be surprised when members of the wellness-oriented clientele they’ve targeted over the years decide that they no longer desire a product and company that clearly contradict their other values.

Yet another reason to make our own products!

[If this post is retracted within the next days or weeks, I apologize. Interpret such an event as evidence that I’ve become the latest victim of Vandersloot’s bullying.]