Just when we thought the number of presidential candidates couldn’t get any higher, Ed Stack, the billionaire CEO of Dick’s Sporting Goods may be running on a third-party ballot.
The suspicion arose out of a focus group exercise where Stack was compared to other candidates, Politico reported, with a heavy emphasis on his ban of assault rifles in Dick’s Sporting Goods stores after the company realized that it sold the gun used in the Parkland, Florida high school shooting which left 17 dead.
According to Politico, however, a source familiar with Stack denied any plans to run for office despite focus group members being asked whether they would be open to supporting third party candidates and to vote on sample ballots that included Stack, Biden and Donald Trump and then Stack, Elizabeth Warren or Trump. A focus group member even told Politico that “didn’t have the charisma it would take to attract a coalition that you’d need to have a chance as a third-party candidate.”
Stack’s stance against guns put a dent in his company’s bottom line and is yet another example of a growing trend in a phenomenon called “mercantile activism,” which refers to large corporations, corporate personalities or their leaders figuratively stepping in for the government and making political decisions, like banning gun sales. Stack was lauded for his chutzpah, considering his roots in “deer country” Pennsylvania where hunting is popular. Walmart and L.L. Bean followed suit in the days after Dick’s Sporting Goods made the announcement.
The popularity of this type of activist leadership among corporations has also seemed to put these leaders on a political pedestal that gives them the clout they need to consider running for elected office and it helps that can fund their own campaigns. And, as President Trump has made clear, career politicians aren’t the only people who can win an election and billionaire CEOs are becoming more confident.
Early this year, Starbucks CEO, Howard Shultz, officially announced he was interested in running for President in 2020, but suspended his campaign citing health concerns. Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York City and CEO of Bloomberg L.P. is also considering a presidential bid. Tom Steyer became a billionaire working in hedge funds and is running in the Democratic primaries.
Even more controversial than his non-political background, is Stack’s purported interest in a third party, which could make him a “spoiler,” or someone who siphons votes from Democrats or Republicans. In 2000, Ralph Nader, a lawyer and activist, famously ran as a Green Party candidate against Al Gore and George Bush, where he is believed to have taken the votes Gore needed to win and handed Bush the election, making him a notable spoiler given his liberal and environmentalist stances.
Stack’s history as a donor to republican groups and a $300,000 gift to a democratic SuperPAC to help his sister, Kim Myers in her congressional campaign, along with his stance on guns could make him an ideal choice for conservative or moderate voters who want Trump out of office but can’t stomach the idea of voting left, which will grab votes from both Trump and moderate democrats like Warren and Biden, making Stack’s surprising, yet possible run for office one to watch out for.
Source: Forbes – Leadership