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Starbucks CEO says 100+ businesses to withhold campaign donations over debt

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Schultz (Kin Cheung/AP)

Heads of over 100 major companies have joined Starbucks Corp. CEO Howard Schultz in a pledge to boycott political donations until Congress and the president agree on a long-term debt and deficit plan, Schultz announced in a letter Wednesday.

"Remarkably, the initiative triggered a national dialogue and a groundswell of support," Schultz wrote, adding that in the 10 days since releasing his pledge, he "heard directly from thousands of concerned citizens and was astounded by the volume of support we received through calls, emails, social media exchanges and various other public votes of confidence."

That included over 100 business leaders who signed on to Schultz' initiative, including Myron Ullman of JC Penney, Duncan Niederauer of NYSE, and Walter Robb, co-chief executive of Whole Foods, Tim Armstrong of AOL, and Mickey Drexler of J. Crew Group.

Schultz earlier this month issued an internal message at Starbucks reportedly expressing dismay over "the lack of cooperation and irresponsibility among elected officials as they have put partisan agendas before the people's agenda." The response to that message led him on Aug. 15 to issue the campaign donation boycott pledge to business leaders, casting it as a strike to force politicians to act swiftly on the debt crisis and clean up what he views as their dysfunction.

Partisan gridlock in Washington was on full display this summer when Republicans in Congress and the White House sparred over raising the debt ceiling. They failed to reach an agreement until the day before the U.S. was expected to begin defaulting on its debt, causing panic and uncertainty. Ratings agencies have since downgraded the U.S. credit rating.

Schultz' pledge also asks leaders to personally take action by accelerating job creation within their own companies.

Schultz has long donated to Democrats, handing over around $100,000 over the past 15 years to Democratic candidates and committees, according to the Center for Responsive politics. The Center lists a single Republican donation by Schultz: $1,000 to Sen. John McCain in 1999.

On Wednesday, website www.upwardspiral2011.org and an accompanying Facebook page were launched to connect citizens, businesses and organizations over Schultz' pledge.

UPDATE Aug. 26, 2011 1:53PM EST: An earlier version of this story listed billionaire investor Pete Peterson as one of the CEOs who signed Schultz' pledge. But a representative for Peterson contacted The Ticket Friday to say Starbucks' inclusion of Peterson was a mistake and he is not one of the CEOs who has publicly joined Schultz' effort.

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