6 Facts About Walmart and SB 202:  How Walmart is “Worse Than Silent” on LGBT Issues   

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Update, February 23, 2015:  Today, as the bill became law, Walmart finally broke it’s silence and said that it opposes SB 202.    Unfortunately, as you will read below, this comes after pouring money into those who supported the bill, including Gov. Hutchinson who allowed the bill to become law.    We think it is worth noting that, if the company really wanted to help stop the law, they could have spoken out before the day the bill became law and encouraged their political and business allies to do the same.     


This week, SB 202 reached the desk of Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson. The bill would “limit cities and counties from passing nondiscrimination ordinances that would protect LGBT people in employment, housing and public accommodations,” according to the Human Rights Campaign.    The Arkansas business community, led by retail giant Walmart, has been widely criticized for its silence on this issue.

LGBT workplace advocacy group Freedom to Work recently released a statement on this issue which read, in part:

“Wal-Mart has recently been given high praise and high scores from the LGBT advocates who publicly rate corporate responsibility,” said Tico Almeida, founder of Freedom to Work. “As the largest private employer in Arkansas, Wal-Mart should publicly call for a veto of this bigoted legislation and lobby the Governor to stand on the right side of history. If Wal-Mart remains silent, I hope the corporate giant will be downgraded in the eyes of LGBT consumers and LGBT organizations alike.”

Here are six facts about Walmart and the Waltons’ failure to strengthen civil rights protections for the LGBT community in Arkansas so far:

  1. Late last year, in Fayetteville, AR (near Walmart’s global headquarters), the City Council passed an anti-LGBT discrimination law in August, 2014. The Chamber of Commerce unanimously adopted a resolution calling for the recall of the a law. The Chamber of Commerce Board includes a Walmart representative and the Ex-Offico Board includes a representative of Arvest Bank, which is owned and run by Walmart owner and Board Member Jim Walton. Sam’s Club and Arvest are also sponsors of the Chamber.
  2. Since 2006, Walmart and the Waltons have given $30,000 to Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson who is refusing to veto SB 202.
  3. Walmart and the Waltons have given more than $450,000 to Republican candidates for State Senate and State Assembly in Arkansas since 2000.    More than $100,000 of this was in 2014 alone.
  4. Since 2000, Walmart and the Waltons have given more than $355,000 to the Arkansas Republican Party and the Arkansas Republican House Leadership Committee.   More than $136,000 of this total came from Jim Walton, who previously donated heavily to an Arkansas initiative to outlaw adoption by same-sex couples.
  5. The sponsor of SB 202, Bart Hester, received a contribution from the Arvest Bank PAC in 2012.   Arvest Bank is owned by the Walton family and Walmart Board Member Jim Walton is the CEO.
  6. The Arkansas Chamber of Commerce has been criticized for their silence on this issue.    A Walmart representative, Gerard Dehrmann, is a Vice-Chairman of the organization and Walmart is one of only 3 “Apex members” of the State Chamber (the highest level of membership).

Will Walmart and the Walton family speak out for equality or continue to side with those who want to deny LGBT citizens their rights?

Are Walton/Walmart Ties Hurting Teach for America’s Reputation?

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It looks like the Walmart heirs’ multi-milion dollar investment in Teach for America is causing some young teachers-to-be to think twice about the group and its agenda.    In Friday’s New York Times, Motoko Rich writes that Teach for America has experienced a 10% drop in applications over the prior year, breaking a 15 year growth trend for the organization.   Among the reasons cited for the drop are increasing criticism of TfA, it’s funders, and its close alliance with the charter school movement.

In fact, the article quotes one college student who was originally interested in applying for Teach for America:

But as she learned more about the organization, Ms. Duncan lost faith in its short training and grew skeptical of its ties to certain donors, including the Walton Family Foundation, a philanthropic group governed by the family that founded Walmart.


Greg Penner, grandson-in-law of Walmart founder Sam Walton

The Walton Family Foundation has contributed more than $50 million to Teach for America since 2009.[1]   Walton family member (and Walmart Vice Chairman) Greg Penner is a member of the Teach for America Board of Directors.   Another TfA Board Member is Jose Villarreal, a close associate of Walmart and the Waltons, having served on the Walmart board from 1998-2006 and the Walton-owned First Solar board from 2005 to 2013.[2]

In many ways, Teach for America has become the Walmart model of education – low cost, low-wage and according to many critics, low quality.  Teach for America trains well-meaning, high-achieving college graduates for just five weeks before sending them to serve out a two-year commitment by teaching in high-needs schools – in districts such as Newark, Philadelphia and Chicago, where thousands of experienced educators and support staff are being laid off and traditional public schools are being closed.[3]

As Teach for America alumnus Alex Caputo-Pearl has written, “This leads to clustering of less-prepared teachers disproportionately at schools serving our most vulnerable children, which has been shown to have detrimental effect on students.”[4] Education researcher Julian Vasquez Heilig found that more than 80 percent of TFA recruits leave teaching before their fourth year.[5] According to Heilig, “Sadly, Teach for America is a revolving door of inexperienced teachers for the students who most need a highly qualified one.”


But, criticisms of TFA’s model aside, perhaps the most important take-away from the New York Times piece is that, as the devastating impact of the Walmart economy on our nation becomes clearer, many are increasingly suspicious of the role of the company’s ruling family’s ideological agenda and the impact it may have in our schools and beyond.

As criticism of Walmart and the Walton family grows, organizations may increasingly wonder whether, in the long-run, contributions from the Walton family, are do more harm than good.


[1] The Walton Family Foundation, IRS Form 990 (Various Years)

[2] http://www.forbes.com/fdc/welcome_mjx.shtml

[3] Bob Braun, “Newark: 700 teachers may be laid off, many replaced by TFA,” Bob Braun’;s Ledger (February 23, 2014). http://bobbraunsledger.com/newark-700-teachers-may-be-laid-off-many-replaced-by-tfa/ ; Greg Toppo, “Teach for America: Elite corps or costing older teachers jobs?,” USA Today (July 29, 2009). http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/education/2009-07-29-teach-for-america_N.htm; Camika Royal, “I Won’t Say ‘Don’t Join Teach For America’ (Yet)” Good (November 26, 2013). http://magazine.good.is/articles/i-won-t-say-don-t-join-teach-for-america-yet

[4] Alex Caputo-Pearl, “Teach for America Shows the Downside of Quick Fixes to Education,” The New York Times(Room for Debate) (August 30, 2012). http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2012/08/30/is-teach-for-america-working/teach-for-america-shows-the-downside-of-quick-fixes-to-education

[5] Julian Vasquez Heilig, “Teach for America Is a Glorified Temp Agency,” The New York Times (Room for Debate). (August 31, 2012). http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2012/08/30/is-teach-for-america-working/teach-for-america-is-a-glorified-temp-agency

The Waltons are the Secret Stars of the 2015 State Of The Union

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The Waltons – who became the richest family in the world by inheriting Wal-Mart – are going to make a stealth appearance in the State Of The Union tonight when President Obama discusses his proposals to close tax loopholes that unfairly benefit the ultra-rich.

For starters, the President is going to propose ending the so-called “trust fund loophole.” According to the Administration, this loophole allows hundreds of billions of dollars to avoid capital gains taxes each year by letting the wealthy pass appreciated assets to their heirs tax-free (details here).

That reform is potentially significant to the Waltons, who hold most of their wealth in Wal-Mart stock that has appreciated greatly over the years and is currently worth more than $142 Billion.[1] The Waltons would undoubtedly like to pass that $142 billion in Wal-Mart stock to their heirs tax free.

After all, it’s no secret that the Waltons have lobbied for permanent repeal of the estate tax and are the undisputed masters of avoiding taxes on inherited wealth. As Bloomberg reporter Zachary R. Mider put it:

America’s richest family… has exploited a variety of legal loopholes to avoid the estate tax, according to court records and Internal Revenue Service filings obtained through public-records requests. The Waltons’ example highlights how billionaires deftly bypass a tax intended to make sure that the nation’s wealthiest contribute their share to government rather than perpetuate dynastic wealth, a notion of fairness voiced by supporters of the estate tax like Warren Buffett and William Gates Sr.

Americans for Tax Fairness estimates that the Waltons have avoided $3 Billion in estate taxes by using special tax trusts and could potentially avoid tens of billions more down the line using these same techniques.

It’s not just estate taxes that the Waltons use loopholes to avoid.

Americans for Tax Fairness estimates that the Waltons avoid about $1.66 Million per day in taxes due to the preferential 20% tax rate on capital gains and dividends.[2] Last year, the Waltons raked in about $3.16 Billion in Wal-Mart dividends but they paid less in taxes on those dividends, percentage-wise, than a typical working stiff on their wage and salary income.

The President’s proposal would cut into the Waltons’ tax avoidance a bit by increasing the top rate on capital gains and dividends to 28% (still lower than the top rate for wage and salary income).

How will this all sit with the Waltons – the unheralded stars of the State Of The Union?

We imagine that Wal-Mart’s reigning family will be displeased. But, given that the Waltons are among the 80 families in the entire world that own more wealth than 50% of humanity combined, it seems like maybe they could afford to pay their fair share.


[1] Based on our analysis of Walton family share ownership and Wal-Mart’s stock price as of January 20, 2015 at 2PM. For share ownership, see http://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/104169/000130817914000196/lwmt2014_def14a.htm; For stock price, see http://stock.walmart.com/stock-information/

[2] According to Americans for Tax Fairness, the Waltons save $607 million annually on their dividend income because it is taxed at the preferential rate of 20% as opposed to the 39.6% top rate on wage and salary income. See, http://www.americansfortaxfairness.org/files/Walmart-on-Tax-Day-Americans-for-Tax-Fairness-1.pdf

How a Small Change at Walmart Could Send 9 Million Students to College

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Is it a good idea for America to send qualified, yet underprivileged and lower-income students, to college? The answer is indisputable: yes.

President Obama’s new proposal, America’s College Promise, which would cover the cost of the first two years of community college for as many as 9 million students, however, has met criticism that there is no such thing as a free college and the national deficit is already too high. The Administration estimates that the program will cost approximately $60 billion over ten years.

As part of the important public discussion on how to help our students and communities succeed in a 21st century economy, it is important to look at these figures in context.

More than 1.3 million Americans work at Walmart, the nation’s largest employer. While experts agree that the retailer has exerted downward pressure on wages throughout the broader economy, the majority of Walmart workers are paid less than $25,000 a year. Workers have been speaking out for better wages and consistent, full-time hours that would allow them to provide for their families without relying on public assistance programs like food stamps.

Walmart’s practices not only impact workers, but American taxpayers as well. If Walmart was a better employer, like Costco for example, Americans would save a substantial sum. If Walmart improved its wages and hours, taxpayers could save $6.2 billion dollars a year, according to a recent report by Americans for Tax Fairness.

America could save at least $62 billion over ten years, which more than exceeds the price tag of America’s College Promise. And this wouldn’t hurt shareholder value. According to Steven Gandel, Walmart could offer its workers a 50% raise without impacting the company’s profits.

College is already prohibitively expensive in the U.S; student debt stands at more than $1 trillion. America’s middle class today is facing an unprecedented level of income inequality that puts the American Dream out of reach, something with which even Republican Governor Jeb Bush agrees. A college education is not only too expensive—many American workers are not paid enough to make one a remote possibility.

Walmart alone could send nine million people to community college for two years if it simply provided decent jobs. America could take one small step forward in stopping the cycle of poverty and inequality.

Walmart’s wage and benefit policies are what cost taxpayers too much: billions of dollars per year. New federal programs like America’s College Promise are urgent interventions to improve lives and the skills of our workforce in America. Walmart’s low-wage business model is bad for America and must be changed.

How Walmart Destroyed U.S. Manufacturing

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By Molly McGrath and Brad Markell

Walmart and Element ElectronicsWalmart has spent millions of dollars in the past two years on public relations promotions, advertising and conferences, trying to convince us that it, well, cares about America. From championing hiring veterans (which is noble, yes, but veterans deserve better than poverty wage jobs, and Walmart receives a substantial tax break for hiring them) to promoting “U.S. manufacturing,” the company has tried to evade the common sense of real, hardworking Americans by helping them forget Walmart was responsible for our manufacturing sector’s demise in the first place.

That’s why the Alliance for American Manufacturing’s petition to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which has exposed the false claims by Walmart’s supplier, Element Electronics, that its TVs are “Assembled in America” is so important. There isn’t enough work being performed on Element’s TVs once they arrive in the United States from China in their boxes (already covered in American flags), to meet the standard prescribed by the FTC for “Assembled in America.” To meet it, the FTC says, a products’ “principal assembly takes place in the U.S. and the assembly is substantial.”

On the surface, with the help of slick public relations firms, Walmart’s U.S. Manufacturing Initiative seems patriotic and good for the country, but it does not live up to the hype. Here are five reasons why:

1. Walmart drove these jobs away in the first place.

Walmart’s commercials touting Element’s “Assembled in the USA” TVs show America’s workers in Winnsboro, S.C., who are grateful for having jobs, and job creation should be applauded. But don’t forget, Walmart played the central, if not the defining, role in the off-shoring of high-quality U.S. manufacturing jobs over the past 25 years. Companies that used to manufacture products in the United States, from Levi’s jeans to Master Lock, were pressured to shut their U.S. factories and move manufacturing abroad to meet Walmart’s demand for low prices. In fact, Element Electronics is now housed in a Perry Ellis plant that closed in 2008.

2. Walmart is the nation’s largest importer.

Walmart holds the champion title as the nation’s largest importer. This is no small feat. According to trade data published by the Journal of Commerce, Walmart continues to be the largest importer of goods to the United States in 2013. And company imports have increased by 2.5 times since 2002. Meanwhile, many of Walmart’s chosen U.S. suppliers, like Element Electronics and Kent International, will continue to import the majority of their televisions and bicycles, respectively, sold in the United States; and for their “American-made or assembled” products, they will import the majority, if not all, of the products’ components.

To really rebuild U.S. manufacturing, Americans need actual manufacturing—not just assembly—jobs.

3. Wages are just too low.

Wages are at the crux of Walmart’s attempt to fool consumers. Wages at many of these suppliers in Walmart’s U.S. Manufacturing Initiative are considerably lower than average. This is because Walmart requires extremely low labor costs for any Walmart U.S. manufacturing deal. At Element Electronics, a worker averages about $12.50 per hour. According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average median wage for a manufacturing worker in October 2014 is $19.64. Walmart put American workers’ jobs in harm’s way by driving off-shoring and job loss in its hunt for ever lower prices. In bringing them back, they should be held to a higher standard.

4. Taxpayers are on the hook for these bad jobs.

To top it all off, Walmart and its partner U.S. suppliers are taking full advantage of the American taxpayer by getting big state and local incentive packages to subsidize the creation of the small amount of jobs Walmart and its partners are creating. Element Electronics takes the cake. The factory in Winnsboro was opened with a large incentive deal from the state and county—including corporate income tax credits, job training and property tax rebates. Combined, according to a cost benefit analysis that was part of the county’s impact analysis, the package would cost an estimated $14.8 million to the public over 15 years. The county also purchased the building and has leased it to Element; in three years, it can simply transfer the title.

Walmart should be responsible for a greater part of its own U.S. Manufacturing Initiative, not U.S. taxpayers.

5. We love “Made in America,” and Walmart knows you will pay more for it.

Walmart exists to sell more stuff and at a higher profit margin. It’s a retailer. But Americans will pay more to keep their fellow citizens employed, according to a widely cited Boston Consulting Group survey, more than 80% of Americans are willing to pay more for American-made or assembled products, almost all of whom say because they want to keep jobs in the United States. Walmart, doing what it does best, follows with the red, white and blue-splattered packaging. Stephen Quinn, Walmart’s chief marketing officer said at Walmart’s Manufacturing Summit in August, “We know that customers prefer products made in the USA, and so it follows that if it’s going to change customers’ minds, they really have to know about it. And that starts with the silent salesmen: your packaging. It’s critically important that your packaging clearly communicate that your product supports American jobs.”

And that brings us back to this week’s FTC petition accusing Walmart supplier Element Electronics of false advertising. As Walmart’s Stephen Quinn was telling the crowd about the importance of patriotic packaging, pictures of Element’s red, white and blue, “Assembled in the USA”-emblazoned boxes flashed on the screen behind him. It seems Walmart will do anything to avoid actually creating good, middle-class jobs in its stores or with its suppliers.

This post originally appeared on AFL-CIO Now.

More Companies Withdraw From ALEC…But not the Walton Family

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The list of companies and organizations who have publicly committed to leaving extreme right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) continues to grow, with Google, Yelp and Yahoo! all announcing in the last week that they would sever ties with the organization.alec climate change

Meanwhile, the Walton Family Foundation, the not-so-charitable organization run by the heirs to the Walmart fortune, has ignored calls to publicly distance themselves from ALEC.      In 2011, Walmart and the Walton Family Foundation were listed side by side as chairmen-level sponsors of ALEC’s national meeting.    Since then, Walmart has publicly withdrawn from ALEC, but the Waltons have remained silent.

But, the Waltons’ ties to ALEC and their ideological allies run deep.   In 2012, while many were distancing themselves from ALEC, the Walton Family Foundation hired Lori Drummer Armistead, the former director of ALEC’s education task force.   And, though ALEC’s membership lists are not public, we do know that the Waltons continue to support close ideological allies of ALEC.   A prime example is the Cato Institute, a supporter of the controversial stand-your-ground laws that ALEC, with Walmart’s support, pushed nationwide.

Even after Walmart, the nation’s largest seller of guns and ammunition, distanced itself from ALEC, the Waltons have continued to support the right-wing Cato Institute, one of the most vocal supporters of stand-your-ground laws.

Several of the companies who withdrew from ALEC this week, cited the organization’s continued climate change denial.    Google CEO Eric Schmidt said:

“Everyone understands climate change is occurring and the people who oppose it are really hurting our children and our grandchildren and making the world a much worse place,” he said. “And so we should not be aligned with such people — they’re just, they’re just literally lying.” 

But, the Waltons’ self-professed commitment to the environmental is contradicted by the fact that the Institute for Local Self Reliance has called the company “one of the biggest and fastest growing climate polluters in the country.”   And, perhaps not surprisingly, the Waltons have remained silent on ALEC.   Instead, the WFF funds climate change deniers like the American Enterprise Institute (which calls legislation to help address climate change “disingenuous environmentalism run amok” and Americans for Prosperity (who has found “no evidence that global warming is either man made or likely to be harmful.”)and the Waltons disproportionately fund political candidates who vote against the environment.

If the Waltons truly support action on climate change, the repeal of stand-your-ground laws, and an end to racist voter-ID laws supported by ALEC, they should join the growing list of companies and organizations that have publicly ended their ties with the organization.

Walmart Heirs Among Forbes’ Top 10 Billionaires but Lagging on Charity

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The new Forbes 400 list of the richest people in America is out today and the four Walton heirs who own Walmart are all in the top ten once again.

It’s no surprise. Last July, the Waltons appeared at the top of Forbes’ list of the richest families in America. In fact, Forbes declared them the richest family on earth.

But there’s one list the Waltons won’t be making – the list of America’s most charitable billionaires.

An analysis we released earlier this month revealed that, when it comes to charitable giving, the Waltons lag well behind their peers at the top of the Forbes 400.

That analysis builds on a June report showing that the Waltons give almost none of their own wealth to the family foundation they control.

Table. Waltons: America's Least Generous Billionaires

Source: http://walmart1percent.org/phonyphilanthropy2

Documents reveal Walmart ties to secretive GOP group

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Documents released this week show substantial funds flowing from Walmart to the Republican Governors Policy Committee, the secretive 501(c)(4) arm of the Republican Governors Association. A schedule from a group symposium last year shows that Walmart contributed to the policy committee at the highest level—$250,000 and up—along with Koch Companies Public Sector, Exxon Mobil, Aetna, and others. Eric Brewer, Walmart’s Senior Director for Public Affairs and Government Relations, attended the meeting on behalf of the company.

The newly revealed documents shed light on a shadowy corner of money in politics, where company officials are given access to decision makers in exchange for contributions, in this case to a group that does not have to disclose its donors. As the New York Times explains, “the tax-exempt Republican Governors Public Policy Committee is not required to disclose anything, even as donors hit the links, rub shoulders and trade policy talk with governors and their top staff members.”

Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21, told the Times, “This is a classic example of how corporations are trying to use secret money, hidden from the American people, to buy influence, and how the governors association is selling it.”

Walmart has a long history of giving big to GOP candidates and committees at the state level, perhaps a more impactful option as Congress continues to deadlock on so many issues. Since 2004, Walmart has given more than $1.7 million to the Republican State Leadership Committee, the group that led the 2010 Republican takeover of state legislatures. Over that same time period, 81% of Walmart’s contributions to candidates and party committees at the state level, more than $7 million, went to Republicans, according to data from Follow the Money.

As a result of the successful Republican takeovers in recent years, harmful right-wing policies have begun to emerge in places like North Carolina. There, the state legislature’s GOP majority drafted a budget and policies to make cuts to public education, cut unemployment and Medicaid benefits, and suppress voting rights—all things potentially harmful to Walmart workers and shoppers alike.

Watchdog Groups, Employee-Shareholders File FEC Complaint Alleging that Walmart is Running Illegal PAC Scheme

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Groups are alleging that Walmart illegally pushes associates into contributing to its political action committee, circumventing a federal law that bars companies from putting corporate funds into political campaigns.

Public CitizenCommon Cause and two Walmart employees and shareholders filed a charge with the Federal Elections Committee today. In the complaint, the two employee-shareholders, Cynthia Murray and Evelin Cruz, allege in detail a program in which Walmart reportedly solicits the company’s managers to donate to Walmart’s PAC. In exchange, Walmart reportedly pledged to donate twice the amount of those contributions to its Associates in Critical Need Trust.

This complaint argues that this program is illegal under the Federal Election Campaign Act, which bars companies from making contributions to federal candidates, parties, or PACs.

Craig Holman, government affairs lobbyist for Public Citizen noted that “Wal-Mart is attempting to evade this law by providing a 2-to-1 charitable match from corporate coffers for any campaign contribution to its PAC from company managers. That flouts the law by using substantial corporate money to reward campaign contributors.”

In the past, the FEC has approved some charitable matching schemes, but those programs have been limited to a 1-to-1 match or less, with each donor choosing the benefiting charity-not the company as in this case.

The likes of this funding scheme by Walmart has never been approved by the FEC.  Here, the reportedly 200% matching rate provides such a powerful incentive that the campaign contributions lose their “voluntary” nature.  And these corporate contributions reportedly made exclusively to Walmart’s own charity, along with the campaign contributions to Walmart’s PAC, are simply self-serving for the company.

Murray, who has worked at a Walmart store in Laurel, Md., for 15 years and owns shares in the company, pointed out that such schemes are a fundamental challenge to our country’s democracy:

Multibillion-dollar corporations like Walmart are able to skirt the rules that the rest of us follow. With the majority of Walmart workers being paid less than $25,000, it’s not surprising that Walmart needs to set up a fund to help employees in need. Most of us are in need every day. With more than $16 billion in annual profits, Walmart can afford to pay us more instead of paying expensive lawyers to help them manipulate electoral laws and taxpayers.

Like Murray said, data from Open Secrets shows that since the 2000 election cycle, Walmart’s PAC has spent over $13 million on federal elections, which has gained the company outsized influence on our democratic process.

Common Cause President Miles Rapoport says, “It’s breathtaking. Walmart is running a cynical and likely illegal scheme to get its underpaid workers to help the company leverage its economic power in the political sphere.” The actions that warranted the FEC charge fall in line with Walmart’s chronically bad behavior when it comes to pushing others down and bending and breaking rules to get ahead.

Additionally, since the 2000 election cycle, the Walmart PAC has given more than $2.5 million to members of the U.S. House of Representatives who opposed increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 last year. Among House members who voted on the proposed minimum wage increase, nearly two-thirds of the Walmart PAC’s contributions went to those who voted no. The Washington Post has reported that Walmart’s lobbying disclosures suggest it started lobbying last year on the minimum wage and Fair Minimum Wage Act, despite public statements that it is “neutral” on the issue.

Reportedly pressuring employees for political donations and lobbying against increasing the minimum wage tell us one thing: it’s clear that Walmart truly doesn’t care about the well-being of its associates.

To see the FEC complaint, click here.

Analysis: Walmart Heirs are the Least Charitable of America’s Richest Billionaires

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The Walmart heirs are donating very little of their growing $145 billion1 in wealth and lag far behind their peers at the top of The Forbes 400, according to a new analysis by the Walmart1Percent of charitable giving by America’s ten richest people between 2008 and 2013.

Rob, Jim, Alice, and Christy Walton currently hold positions 6 through 9 on The Forbes 400 and should easily place in the top ten once again when Forbes releases the 2014 update later this month.

The Waltons, who own and control Walmart and are the richest family in the country, receive approximately $8.6 million per day in Walmart dividends. Despite this incredible wealth, the Waltons contributed just $17.6 million to charity between 2008 and 2013, a little more than two days’ worth of their Walmart dividends. Over the same period, Warren Buffet contributed $8.4 billion to non-profit organizations – 477 times more than the Waltons combined. The least generous of the top ten, other than the Waltons, is the industrialist Charles Koch. Even he gave 11 times more than all four Waltons combined.

Table: Walton family giving lags well behind that of other richest Americans

These differences in giving are not correlated with disparities in wealth among the top ten billionaires. The Waltons contributed just .012% of their combined net worth. Rob Walton, the long-time chairman of Walmart, contributed just $10,000, about .00003% of his $35.2 billion net worth. Meanwhile, the top three givers in the group – Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, and Michael Bloomberg – each gave away between 9% and 12% of their net worth. The next three – Larry Ellison, and David and Charles Koch – each contributed at least .44% of their net worth.

The Waltons have a history of giving far less substantially than their peers and average Americans.

  • A report released by Walmart1Percent earlier this year found that the Waltons have contributed almost none of their own wealth to the Walton Family Foundation and use the Foundation to avoid an estimated $3 billion in estate taxes each year.3
  • None of the Waltons have signed The Giving Pledge, an initiative by Gates and Buffett to get the world’s billionaires to commit to giving away a majority of their wealth during their lifetime, or at their death.4 The top four givers on the Forbes list – Buffett, Gates, Bloomberg, and Ellison – have all signed the pledge. Only the Waltons and the Koch brothers have not.5
  • Since 2000, The Chronicle of Philanthropy has compiled an annual list of the top 50 American contributors to charitable organizations.6 None of the Walmart heirs discussed here has ever appeared on that list.

The Waltons, majority owners of Walmart, have been widely criticized as exemplars of, and contributors to, widening economic inequality in the United States (see here, here, and here).7  And while the family’s wealth compounds at an astonishing rate, most Walmart workers make less than $25,000 per year.8 Americans for Tax Fairness found recently that Walmart’s low wages force many Walmart workers to rely on food stamps and other public benefits, costing U.S. taxpayers an estimated $6.2 billion annually.9

A note on the methodology used to conduct this analysis

The analysis reported here uses publicly available information to compare charitable contributions made from 2008 through 2013 by the individuals who occupy the top ten spots on Forbes’ “Richest People in America” list. Each of the individuals included in the analysis is associated with one or more private charitable foundations, which are required to report contribution data to the IRS on Form 990-PF. These reports provide the main source material for the analysis. A non-profit organization’s Form 990 is a public document, routinely available from a variety of sources, or by request from the IRS or the organization. However, to the extent that the individuals in question make undisclosed charitable contributions to other entities, this analysis may underestimate their charitable giving. We have confidence in the overall accuracy of our analysis based on a review of information published by the most reputable journalistic source on matters of philanthropic giving by the wealthy, The Chronicle of Philanthropy.

In order to calculate charitable contributions we first identified private charitable foundations associated with each of the individuals and tallied contributions from the individuals, as reported on the foundations’ annual IRS filings (Form 990-PF) for the years 2008 through 2012. The foundations included in the analysis are: The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Trust (contributions from Bill Gates and Warren Buffett); The Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation (contributions from Charles Koch); the David H. Koch Foundation (contributions from David Koch); the Howard G Buffett Foundation, The Sherwood Foundation, The Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation, and The  NoVo Foundation (contributions from Warren Buffett); The Bloomberg Family Foundation (contributions from Michael Bloomberg); and The Lawrence Ellison Foundation (contributions form Larry Ellison); and The Walton Family Foundation and the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art (contributions from the Waltons).

For 2013, the contribution data  are based on reporting by The Chronicle of Philanthropy and online databases maintained by The Chronicle.10 These sources yield the following findings for contributions during 2013, which have been included in the overall totals for each individual: Warren Buffett ($2.34 billion); Bill Gates ($181.3 million); David Koch ($101 million); Larry Ellison ($72.2 million); and Michael Bloomberg ($452 million).


1The Forbes 400: The Richest People in America,” Forbes (Retrieved September 5, 2014).
2The World’s Billionaires,” Forbes (Retrieved September 15, 2014).
3Report: Phony Philanthropy of the Walmart Heirs,” The Walmart1% (June 3, 2014).; Zachary R. Mider, “How Wal-Mart’s Waltons Maintain Their Billionaire Fortune,” Bloomberg (September 12, 2013).; Americans for Tax Fairness, “Walmart on Tax Day,” (April 2014).
4The Giving Pledge: FAQ” (Retrieved September 7, 2014).
5The Giving Plegde: Pledger Profiles,” (Retrieved September 7, 2014).
6 For the most recent list, see: “A Look at the 50 Most Generous Donors of 2013,” The Chronicle of Philanthropy (February 9, 2014).
7 Robert Reich, “What Walmart Could Learn from Henry Ford.” (November 16, 2013).; “How the Wal-Mart Heirs Got Their Wealth,” Moyers & Company (May 11, 2014).; Amy Traub, “Retail’s Choice: How raising wages and improving schedules for women in the retail industry would benefit America,” Demos (June 2014).
8 Sourcewatch, “Walmart,” (Retrieved September 8, 2014).
9 See footnote 3
10 Maria Di Mento, “How The Chronicle Compiled the Philanthropy 50 List,” The Chronicle of Philanthropy (February 9, 2014;“A Look at the 50 Most Generous Donors of 2013,” The Chronicle of Philanthropy (February 9, 2014).; America’s Top Donors, online database. The Chronicle of Philanthropy (retrieved May 27, 2014).

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