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2004-10-30
Antioch, CA. Citizen Wal-Mart Spends $50,000 To Support City Candidates

Wal-Mart is using its corporate funds to try to influence elections on November 2nd in Antioch, California. The company is using its deep pockets to help elect people that will further its own development goals. The Contra Costa Times reports that the Arkansas company has contributed $50,000 to help three candidates in local races that it considers friendly to the company. Two City Council candidates and a Mayoral candidate have all received corporate money from "Citizen" Wal-Mart. Jim Davis, who is running for Mayor, and council incumbent Arne Simonsen and council challenger Manny Soliz have each benefitted from $15,610 worth of mailings and polling services paid for by Wal-Mart. The company has distributed at least three campaign fliers backing the three candidates. Wal-Mart thus hopes to buy its way into Antioch, and purchase a commitment from these candidates to support their proposal to expand their existing Wal-Mart discount store into a larger superstore. They're shopping for votes in Antioch to further their narrow corporate interests. Planners in Antioch have been requiring Wal-Mart to update its environmental impact review to take into account additional lighting, traffic and the impact of the store changing its hours to a 24 x 7 format. Wal-Mart has been unhappy with these new requirements, so rather than comply, Wal-Mart has taken it upon itself to finance new candidates who hopefully will drop their demands on the retailer. The current Mayor of Antioch, Donald Freitas, has said that he would require the Wal-Mart review -- so he's not getting any Wal-Mart money. One of the "Wal-Mart Candidates", Manny Soliz, told the Contra Costa Times that Wal-Mart "wants to have logical, rational leaders in Antioch. They recognize that with my business background and my decision-making ability that I will make decisions in the best interest of Antioch." The newspaper estimates that Wal-Mart will spend at least $2.4 million in California electoral campaigns, including candidates in another community, Lodi, and some statewide races and ballot questions. Wal-Mart already spent big to defeat a ballot question last March in Contra Costa that would have banned big-box retailers in the county. A group called Citizens for a Better Antioch held a rally outside of Wal-Mart this week to protest the company's involvement in local politics.

What you can do: Not content to sell us cheap underwear and banannas, Wal-Mart is trying to sell us political candidates. This use of their corporate treasury to elect local, state and national figures is a reminder of the unfinished business of campaign finance reform. Citizen Wal-Mart is able to outspend real citizens, and promote its special interests through campaign contributions. The idea of large corporations controlling our elections was some of the impetus behind campaign finance reform, but the Wal-Mart expenditures show clearly that the problem of corporate money in politics is not over. Unless corporate contributions are further regulated, we are going to get more and more "everyday low" candidates who were bought and sold by Wal-Mart, just like a bunch of yellow banannas. For earliers stories on Wal-Mart contributions, search Newsflash by "politics" or "contributions."










 
 
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