How much is a Mayor worth? In Wal-Mart’s case, a $300,000 investment will yield more than $100 million a year. That’s how much Wal-Mart will make in annual sales at their supercenter in Rosemead, California. Sprawl-Busters reported September 12th that Wal-Mart had donated $200,000 to protect Rosemead Mayor Gary Taylor and Councilman Jay Imperial from a recall election brought by angry city voters who felt the elected officials sold them out on a Wal-Mart supercenter vote. But on the final day of the campaign, Wal-Mart donated $100,000. That’s a standard campaign finance trick: you make the commitment to spend $300,000, but you hold back actually paying for it so local officials don’t have to declare the money until the campaign is actually over, and voters have no idea how much was actually spent until the polls have closed. As a result of the unlimited spending allowed to corporations, the Mayor and the Councilor kept their seats with 59% of the vote — the best that Wal-Mart could buy. One local political analyst said the enormous financial support by Wal-Mart showed that the company would “stand by its friends.” In Rosemead’s March election last year, two Wal-Mart supporters were ousted and replaced with two opponents. In that election, Wal-Mart did not raise a war chest, and it shows the difference infusion of corporate wealth can make in an election outcome. Residents who supported the recall of the Mayor said that Wal-Mart’s money was used to create the appearance of an “astro roots” group, a phony “grassroots” group. The Mayor has been resurrected, but the Wal-Mart superstore project is not over. According to the Whittier News, a judge is scheduled to hear a lawsuit against the superstore brought by the Garvey School District, which charges that the company’s environmental impact report that studied the store’s effects on nearby Rice Elementary School was flawed.
Once again local residents learn the bitter truth about corporate democracy. As long as rich corporations are afforded the same campaign finance rights as an individual, they can tip the balance of an election by spending a King’s ransom on the vote. This lavish spending does not always work, however. To save these two elected officials, Wal-Mart just spent enough money to pay the annual salary of 21 clerks making $7.50 an hour (not counting fringe.) Instead of wasting its money trying to hold back angry voters, Wal-Mart should spend its money on its own workers to raise their wages and provide decent health care benefits. This “bought” election shows that campaign finance reform is not a dead issue. For earlier stories, search Newsflash by “Rosemead.”