Wal-Mart often tells local officials it needs help financially to widen a road or lay a sewer line to their stores — but when it comes to protecting elected officials who vote for Wal-Mart, the giant retailer is ready to open up the treasury. That’s exactly what’s happening in Rosemead, California, where Wal-Mart has invested $200,000 in the campaign to beat back a recall election effort against two City Council members who voted in 2004 for Wal-Mart, despite angry citizen opposition to the supercenter. An “astro-roots” group (that is, a phoney citizen’s group funded almost entirely by Wal-Mart, has been created as the front group to protect the City Councilors from the wrath of the voters. The “Rosemead Neighbors Against the Recall,” which should really be called the “Rosemead Neighbors Following Wal-Mart Instructions) has received $200,000 from Wal-Mart to protect Mayor Gary Taylor and Councillman Jay Imperial. Thanks to Wal-Mart money, this group now has the largest amount of money ever raised for a local election of any kind in the city’s history, according to the Whittier Daily News. “We support the candidates who have been responsive to the community,” a spokesman for Wal-Mart. “They have made the right decision for the city of Rosemead. This election has no bearing on our store being open.” The two councilors have good reason to fear for their positions, since two Councilors who also voted for Wal-Mart have already been thrown out by voters, and replaced with Councilors who oppose Wal-Mart. Polly Low, a candidate in the recall election, has raised about $30,000 in campaign funds with the help of Rosemead- based Save Our Community. “This fight is David and Goliath,” Low said. “They’re the big, giant corporation and we’re the ordinary citizens.” None of the three candidates who are running against the incumbents have raised more than $50,000. The recall election is September 19th.
In a Wal-Mart democracy, the candidate with the most money wins. Voters in Rosemead will now be lavished with spending by Wal-Mart to influence their local election. If the Mayor and his colleague are ousted, citizens will have made a clean sweep of the people who approved the supercenter. Corporations should not be allowed to make unlimited contributions to candidates, but this is just one more campaign finance loophole that lets big corporations try to win local races in little towns with big money.