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.