- WALPAC donated almost 50-50 to Democratic and Republican federal candidates for the midterms.
- The PAC was established in 1978 and used to donate more heavily to Republicans.
- Walmart’s PAC donated to 41 candidates who denied the 2020 presidential election results, ProPublica found.
If you were a Democratic candidate running for federal office in the 1990s and early 2000s, you probably wouldn’t expect a dime from Walmart’s political action committee, which reserved most of its flourishing financial love for conservatives.
But as both Congress and the country have become increasingly polarized, the Walmart Inc. PAC for Responsible Government, also known as WALPAC, has more evenly distributed its funds to both major parties, according to an Insider analysis of political contribution data from the Federal Election Commission.
During the 2021-2022 election cycle, WALPAC has spread $956,000 among 250 candidates running for federal office as of October 19, according to FEC records. Of that, about 53% went to Republican candidates, and 47% went to Democrats.
All of the PAC’s federal-level donations went to incumbents running for re-election – including 41 to members of Congress who voted last year to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.
On its website, Walmart explains that its PAC donations are made “with the goal of ensuring our company can operate in the very best business environment possible, so we can save our customers time and money.”
Walmart told Insider in a statement the company examines its “political giving strategy” at the end of every election cycle and “after reassessing our giving strategy for months, we decided to resume giving to select members of Congress who contested last year’s election.”
“We’ve long believed we can more effectively advocate on behalf of our associates, customers, communities, and shareholders by engaging with policymakers of both parties,” the company said. “While our political contributions do not mean we support every view of an elected official, we will contribute to those who are focused on issues important to our business and key stakeholders.”
That shift in how WALPAC makes political donations to parties on both sides of the aisle is “indicative of a mature PAC” compared to when it first formed in 1978, said Sheila Krumholz, executive director of OpenSecrets, a nonpartisan research organization that tracks political money.
“This is a traditional business PAC,” Krumholz told Insider. “Business PACs are pragmatic and hedge their bets … the point of PAC donations is to give to incumbents, or people who have jurisdiction over their industry or company and are in a position to extend a hand with their legislative agenda today.”
PACs that donate to multiple candidates can donate a maximum of $5,000 per election, or $10,000 per cycle for a primary and general elections. WALPAC maxed out donations to seven incumbents this year:
- Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, a Republican from Pennsylvania
- Rep. Steven Horsford, a Democrat from Nevada
- Rep. Richard Neal, a Democrat from Massachusetts
- Rep. Kurt Schrader, a Democrat from Oregon who lost his primary
- Sen. John Boozman, a Republican from Arkansas
- Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican from Florida
- Sen. John Thune, a Republican from South Dakota
All seven hold positions on committees that could affect Walmart’s business. Neal, for example, is the chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee responsible for initial hearing of bills regarding taxation. And Thune is the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Finance’s Subcommittee on Taxation and IRS Oversight, which has heard bills on how businesses like Walmart are taxed.
As per Insider’s “Conflicted Congress” project, there were 22 members of Congress who owned stock in Walmart as per their personal financial reports from 2020. Several of the 22 members of Congress, including Republican Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, received campaign contributions from Walmart’s PAC while also holding stock in the company itself, either personally or through a spouse.
Avoiding ideological extremes but backing election deniers
For the 2022 midterms, WALPAC tended to donate to candidates closer to the political center instead of those on the ideological edges of their parties, such as Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia or Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York — neither received a contribution.
Some members of Congress, particularly among Democrats, also reject any corporate PAC contribution — WALPAC or otherwise — as a matter of practice.
And with the exception of donations to Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, an incumbent who is in a dead heat with her Republican challenger, Adam Laxalt, WALPAC is largely staying out of swing state Senate races, including those in Georgia and Pennsylvania.
WALPAC “might have kind of a ‘don’t rock the boat’ strategy’ with its donations,” said Kyle Kondik, managing editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia Center for Politics.
However, the company did donate a significant amount of money to candidates who voted against certifying the 2020 presidential election results.
First, in January 2021, following the insurrection at the US Capitol, the company said that WALPAC would be “indefinitely suspending contributions to those members of Congress who voted against the lawful certification of state electoral college votes.”
But by January 31, 2022, WALPAC resumed giving donations to candidates who objected to certifying Democratic President Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory over former Republican President Donald Trump, according to ProPublica.
In all, 147 Republican lawmakers voted to overturn the election.
Pro-Publica found that WALPAC spread at least $95,000 among 41 of these candidates from late January of this year to the present. Total donations include $7,500 to Republican Rep. Buddy Carter of Georgia and $5,000 to Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California.
Walmart isn’t alone in resuming political contributions to election deniers. AT&T, Valero Energy, and Aflac, among many others, all said in the aftermath of the insurrection they would suspend donations to those candidates only to turn around and continue filling their coffers for the midterms.
Krumholz, of OpenSecrets, said that Walmart and many others are choosing to support their bottom line instead of supporting democracy.
“The memory of January 6 is still fresh, but it grows weaker every day,” Krumholz said. “And (Walmart’s) legislative priorities and concerns affecting their bottom line grow stronger and more diverse by the day.”
Regardless of who controls power on Capitol Hill come January — Democrats or Republicans — Walmart will be well-positioned to influence lawmakers off the campaign trail, as well.
Walmart consistently ranks among the top federal lobbying spenders among retailers — usually in the range of $6 million to $8 million annually. In 2021, for example, the National Retail Federation and CVS Health were the only other retail interests to spend more, according to OpenSecrets.
This year, Walmart has employed a small army of lobbyists — 61 of them, to date — to help advocate for its policy priorities, which involve trade, consumer product safety, taxation, health, labor, transportation, and environmental matters, among others.
This content was originally published here.