You don’t have to lose any sleep over how Wal-Mart corporate interests are voting in the upcoming Presidential elections. Bloomberg News reports that Wal-Mart executives, from the company that once boasted Hillary Clinton as a board member, contributed more money to Republican candidates than any other company. Wal-Mart’s top three bosses, including CEO Lee Scott, invested $2,000 in President George W. Bush — the maximum personal donation. More importantly, Jay Allen, Wal-Mart vice president for corporate affairs, raised at least $100,000 to re-elect the president, earning him the Bush campaign’s designation of “Pioneer.” According to Bloomberg, 66% of Wal-Mart stores are located in states that Bush carried in 2000. The White House has been “friendly” to Wal-Mart issues, including free trade policies and narrowing the scope of who gets overtime pay. Wal-Mart would not find “friendly” Senator John Kerry’s health care plans to encourage more employers to insure workers with comprehensive coverage (under Kerry’s plan, the government would pay three-quarters of companies’ catastrophic health-care costs, defined as expenses of more than $50,000 per illness), and the retailer would not praise plans to raise the minimum wage and make it easier for workers to join unions. Less than half of Wal-Mart’s employees are covered by the company’s health plan, and the Kerry plan would provide Wal-Mart with no new financial benefit. On the other hand, President Bush’s opposition to raising the minimum wage, and the Republican-led Congress’s reluctance to facilitate unionization, all sit well with Wal-Mart. “President Bush and his administration have made a real concerted effort to reach out to Wal-Mart and try to understand what our experience is,” Wal-Mart’s Jay Allen told Bloomberg. Sprawl-Busters reported earlier this year tha Wal-Mart’s political action committee, the biggest corporate PAC in the nation, gave Republicans 81% of its $1.3 million investment in the past two years. This fondness for the White House has not gone unnoticed. Last May, Vice President Dick Cheney visited the retailer’s headquarters for a photo opportunity thank you. `This is one of our nation’s great companies,” Cheney gushed. Wal-Mart also defended its health plan, saying, “We cover a higher percentage of our workforce than some companies. Many of our workers come from industries such as fast food, and this is a significant improvement for them. The truth is, we cover a lot of hourly people with our health-insurance plan.” Raising the minimum wage could impact Wal-Mart, because the company admits that some of its workers make less than $7 an hour. Senator Kerry has endorsed Congressional legislation that permits unions to represent workers after a majority of employees sign cards asking them to join. Under current law, unions can only represent workers after an election, which can take weeks to arrange and can be organized against by the company. “Workers need the right to organize,” a Kerry spokesperson said. “That’s particularly true at Wal-Mart.” Such comments obviously don’t warm up the corporate offices in Bentonville. Wal-Mart’s Allen noted that the union “is engaged in a very public campaign both to stop our growth or attack our reputation. If a candidate gets a lot of support from the United Food and Commercial Workers, that’s certainly something we have to consider strongly.”
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