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2004-10-31
Washington, D.C. The Most "Responsible" Government Wal-Mart Can Buy

Running a big business is not cheap. To keep government on your side costs money. But that's one thing Wal-Mart has plenty of. That's why the conservative retailer is giving liberally to candidates that affect their bottom line. According to a report today from the Arkansas New Bureau, Wal-Mart's Political Action Committee (PAC) has given 'till it hurts to members of Congress who have jurisdiction over agriculture, banking, trade, taxes and commerce. For example, Wal-Mart gave $165,500 to campaigns or committees affiliated with members of the House Ways and Means Committee, which handles corporate tax and trade bills. Add in another $225,000 that Wal-Mart lavished on members of the House Committee on Financial Services, plus $165,000 to lawmakers on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. Jay Allen, Wal-Mart's senior vice president of corporate affairs, said political donations are a normal course and Wal-Mart owes it to shareholders, employees and customers to be involved in the political process. "If you don't have a seat at the table, you're probably not going to like the meal," said Allen, who is treasurer of the company's PAC, called the Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., PAC for Responsible Government. "You have to be there to represent your interests," he told the News Bureau. "Nobody else will and we learned that." Wal-Mart said it gives money to candidates whom it considers "pro-business." "We are supportive of incumbents and people that are generally appreciative of the role business plays in the country and open to discussing those issues," Allen noted. Under federal law, PACs can give up to $10,000 to a candidate. PACs also can give $15,000 annually to a national party committee, and $5,000 annually to another PAC, a state or local party or other political committee. The Wal-Mart PAC is underwritten by contributions from Wal-Mart management. Roughly 77% of its donations are made to Republicans over the last two years, with the bulk of funds going to incumbents. Donations for this election have gone to 29 of the 41 members of the House Ways and Means Committee, with $165,500 directed at 20 Republicans and nine Democrats. Wal-Mart also gave $165,000 to campaigns affiliated with 29 members of the 57-member House Committee on Energy and Commerce, including donations totaling $10,000 to committee chairman Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas. Wal-Mart also donated $225,000 to 34 members of the 70-member House Committee on Financial Services, which oversees the securities, insurance and banking industries. The committee chairman Rep. Michael Oxley, R-Ohio, received $8,500 in contributions from Wal-Mart. A leadership PAC he operates got another $7,500. On the Senate side, Wal-Mart gave $98,000 to the campaigns or committees affiliated with 11 members of the 21-member Senate Committee on Finance, which addresses such issues as Medicare and taxes. Seven of the 11 recipients were Republicans. Campaigns or committees affiliated with 10 of the 21 members of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs received $67,500 in donations. Wal-Mart today is one of the country's largest corporate contributors, giving nearly $2.1 million to candidates through its PAC, nearly double the $1.3 million donated in the 2002 cycle and more than triple the $576,050 donated in 2000. "We need an effective PAC to be effective in Washington today," said Allen. Wal-Mart employs six lobbyists working in Washington. "We've learned that its expected that we're there because of our scope and visibility," he said. "We're the leading employer in a number of states, not to mention the country."

What you can do: Why not drop Wal-Mart an email today, thanking them for protecting us from "irresponsible" government. We're just lucky that Wal-Mart is sophisticated enough to tell a responsible politician who can follow instructions, from one who thinks independently. For related stories on Wal-Mart's political contributions, and its effort to keep America pro-Wal-Mart, search this Newsflash database by "political contributions."










 
 
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