Walmart and Walton Family Big Funders of NRA-Endorsed Candidates
A number of tragic incidents in 2012 brought gun control and the forces shaping American public policy on the issue—like the National Rifle Association and the American Legislative Exchange Council—into the spotlight. But while Walmart’s role as the nation’s largest seller of guns and ammunition has been widely reported, their role in supporting a pro-gun political agenda has not been widely understood.
Between the 2010 and 2012 federal election cycles, Walmart’s PAC gave just over $1 million to candidates endorsed by the NRA, based on our analysis of data from the Center for Responsive Politics and NRA Political Victory Fund grades and endorsements. The Waltons gave another half a million to NRA-endorsed federal politicians over that time period, including super PAC funds. In fact, among politicians with 2012 grades from the NRA, 87% of the Waltons’ 2010-2012 cycle contributions went to candidates with scores between A+ and A-.
Beyond their direct support for NRA-endorsed candidates, Walmart and the Walton family have also helped support a pro-gun agenda through their participation in the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council. ALEC, a membership organization made up primarily of companies and conservative state legislators, produces right-wing model legislation that is then introduced in state legislatures nationwide.
ALEC’s pro-gun efforts have included opposing bans on semi-automatic weapons and opposing waiting periods for background checks. ALEC also helped propagate the notorious “Stand Your Ground” law linked to the killing of Trayvon Martin in Florida last February. The “Stand Your Ground” law, which initially shielded Martin’s shooter from arrest in weeks following the killing, came out of an ALEC working committee co-chaired by a Walmart executive in 2005.
Last year, amid public pressure, Walmart withdrew from ALEC. The Walton Family Foundation appears to still be a member of ALEC though, despite the fact that civil rights leaders and others have called on them to withdraw from the organization too.
As the country’s biggest seller of firearms and ammunition, Walmart has relied on gun sales to improve its dismal performance. In 2011, Walmart reportedly began stocking more guns to boost its flagging same store sales. Last month, Walmart pulled the type of assault rifle used in the Connecticut shootings from its website in the days following the attack, but it was available in about 1,700 stores nationally. The move belies Walmart and the Walton family’s support of pro-gun politicians and the company’s reliance on gun sales.
While Walmart uses guns to boost its sales and the Waltons make billions off of Walmart, they continue working behind the scenes through political giving and the Walton Family Foundation’s membership in ALEC to undermine public safety.
Some figures updated 4//18/13 to reflect additional information on 2012 election contributions.