Adding to Walmart’s PR woes, a report from Bloomberg this week has revealed that the retail giant is taking advantage of controversial federal rules, allowing them to ask employees to contribute to political action committees in exchange for matching charitable donations.
For the last 13 years, 69% of Walmart’s political donations have gone to anti-gay, anti-environmental, and pro-gun causes.
In response to the report workers’ advocates Our Walmart released the following statement:
What Walmart workers really want is for the company to publicly commit to pay better wages and provide steady hours that let us support our families. Many of us can’t pay for groceries or afford rent. Today’s news is further proof that Walmart is determined to spend millions to support politicians who vote to cut food stamps and who oppose increasing the minimum wage, instead of focusing on creating good jobs in our communities. It’s upsetting to hear that Walmart not only exploited the associates in critical need fund to push a political agenda that hurts ordinary Americans, but it also may have done so in violation of federal election laws. This is just the latest example of Walmart acting as though it’s above the law.
The practice was approved by the Federal Election Commission in the late 1980s and has become more of a common practice as companies began to face more and more scrutiny in regards to their political donations. However, the FEC split over the legality of matching PAC contributions with charitable donations at least seven times between 1994 and 2009.
The irony of Walmart forcing employees to make a political contributions in order to get hardship assistance is not lost those who criticize the practice. Many of the donations go to politicians and PACs that oppose policies that will improve the lives and working conditions of Walmart workers.
“It was too close to the line,” said former FEC chairman Scott Thomas, explaining his rationale for opposing the practice during his 20 years at the FEC. “It struck me as offering a chunk of money” to PAC donors. Judith Ingram, an FEC spokeswoman, declined to comment.