Pro-Life Principle Beats Big Money At Pampered Chef
OMAHA, Neb. — A 34-year-old stay-at-home mother of three who home schools her children went up against the pro-abortion policies of one of the wealthiest men in the world.
Cindy Coughlon did not start out intending to pick a fight. She only wanted to sell for The Pampered Chef, a company that distributes kitchen items through individual contractors who hold Tupperware-style parties.
Coughlon had sold Pampered Chef products eight years ago but then took a seven-year hiatus when children started coming along. She took up with the program again last fall at her husband's suggestion.
“Up until the sale,” she said, “it was marked by a Christian climate with the workers treated with good will and generosity.”
“The sale” was of The Pampered Chef from a private holding to Berkshire Hathaway, the Omaha, Neb.-based business of Warren Buffett, the multi-billionaire stock-market entrepreneur. The problem? Buffett is one of the largest financiers of pro-abortion and population-control organizations in the world.
According to the Omaha World-Herald, here's a sample of what millions of Buffett Foundation dollars have supported during the last two years:
E subsidizing the trials for the abortion pill RU-486;
E supporting the Center for Reproductive Rights in its successful work overturning the Nebraska partial-birth abortion ban; E supported groups such as Ipas, a group that provides equipment and training for contraception and abortion worldwide; the Population Council, a group committed to population control; Planned Parenthood Federation of America; National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League; Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice; and Catholics for a Free Choice.
In fact, the Kaiser Family Foundation said this type of giving constituted 75% of the Buffett Foundation's contributions in 2001.
Coughlon, however, didn't find this out until after she had started selling again last October. It was in January when she saw an article in Focus on the Family's Citizen magazine titled, “You're killing your future, Mr. Buffett,” which described the kind of giving Buffett does.
Coughlon said after reading that, “the obvious conclusion was, I can't sell.” And she stopped.
But she also thought that many of her colleagues in The Pampered Chef probably didn't know what Buffett was up to. So she prayed and talked with her pastor at the Presbyterian Church of America she attends in Peoria, Ariz. He gave her the idea for a petition to circulate among Pampered Chef consultants.
Getting that petition out was something of a feat in itself. Coughlon believes she had to overcome the forces of darkness in doing so. As she was writing the petition, she said her computer went through “absolutely inexplicable complications,” something it had not done before. Even something as simple as sending the petition by e-mail to 100 people took eight hours.
“I finally got smart,” she said,“ and asked my church to pray for my computer.” They started praying at the 5 p.m. Sunday service and by 5:30 the computer was working properly again.
The petition worked far beyond anyone's expectations. Coughlon received help from Life Decisions International, a group in Washington, D.C., that monitors corporations that give to Planned Parenthood. Berkshire Hathaway had been on the group's list of companies to target for a boycott for years, and it was not expected to be taken off anytime soon. However, on July 3, Berkshire announced it was dropping the entire corporate-giving program.
While the typical corporate-giving program has a committee chosen by the chief executive officer that decides where the money will go, the Berkshire program was unique in that it allowed Class A shareholders (approximately 10,000 people who paid the full price for their shares, which is currently trading at between $70,000-$75,000 each) to designate $18 per share they owned to any of three of their favorite charities — and Berkshire Hathaway wrote the check.
That money went to various groups depending on what each donor wanted, including some 800 schools and 400 churches and synagogues, according to a Berkshire press release. Jesuit-run Creighton University, also located in Omaha, was the recipient of some of this money, the release said.
It so happened that Buffett's favorite charity was the Buffett Foundation, which received some $100 million over the course of the 22-year program, out of the total amount given of $197 million.
Such giving has caused some to raise questions about its propriety. Tom Strobhar, an investment agent in Dayton, Ohio, who is also president of Pro-Vita Advisors, wrote an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal saying there could be legal and/or ethical problems with Buffett's giving. “It could also be argued that the Berkshire contribution to the Buffett Foundation — more than $9 million last year and upwards of $100 million over the life of the program — was an indirect form of executive compensation,” he said. “By this calculation, Mr. Buffett morphs from one of the most famously under-paid executives to one of the most munificently compensated.”
Life Decisions International has taken Berkshire Hathaway from its target list since the company no longer gives to the Buffett Foundation. But Coughlon and her church are going to continue to pray, for while Berkshire changed its practice, it does not necessarily stop Buffett's giving to pro-death groups.
In fact, some observers believe he will now contribute to it from his own personal fortune, which is valued at approximately $35 billion — money he makes from his ownership of Berkshire Hathaway and other companies in which he has an investment.
Coughlon is not taking this victory as anything she has done.
Her focus is going to be prayer and loving kindness toward Buffett.
“For whatever reason,” she said,“God has made this man a leading figure” in the business world. They will pray, she said, and “God will do with it what God will do with it.”
Thomas A. Szyszkiewicz writes from Altura, Minnesota.
- August 17-23, 2003