Wal-Mart Spends to Influence California Voters and Pols

Oct 27, 2004
George Anderson

By George Anderson

An Associated Press article points out that Wal-Mart “once had a tradition of trying to stay out of politics.” Based on its current practices, the operative words here would have to be “once had.”

According to the report, Wal-Mart has spent more than $2.4 million in California this year, having made donations to the Governator Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Republican Party.

“Many of our opponents are trying to use the political system to stop our growth,” said Bob McAdam, vice president of corporate affairs for Wal-Mart. “And we are not going to sit back and take it without responding. We will respond.”

The retailer has also spent money to influence how Californians vote on referendum issues such as the upcoming Proposition 72 measure that would required all medium and large employer to provide basis health insurance to workers.

It recently donated $500,000 to a group opposing Prop 72 after supporters of the measure including the California Medical Association began running television commercials contending the state picks up $32 million a year to provide health care to Wal-Mart associates.

The retailer felt it needed to respond after being singled out.

“Their ads are just wrong,” said Mr. McAdam. “They are not telling the truth.”

Wal-Mart’s participation in the political process has its opponents worried.

Greg Denier, spokesman for the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union told the Associated Press, “They are so large and have so much money that they can overwhelm the traditional democratic process. This company isn’t just the largest employer in the U.S., they are the largest employer in the majority of the states. I don’t think people have ever confronted something like Wal-Mart before.”

Moderator’s Comments: Is Wal-Mart unfairly being singled out for criticism in California and elsewhere because of
its size? Is the company responding appropriately with its political response to what it sees as attacks against it? Should there be a similar line as in the case of church and
state between business and state?

George Anderson – Moderator

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