retail news in context, analysis with attitude

• A new website,, has been launched by the activist group Wal-Mart Watch (no relation to the MNB Walmart Watch, which actually was using the name first) as a way of chronicling the political influence being wielded by both the retailer and the family that founded it.

According to a statement issued by the watchdog group, “Although Sam Walton believed his company should stay out of politics and stick to retailing, Wal-Mart's strategy changed immensely after his death. From 1999 to 2007, Wal-Mart's lobbying expenditures for outside firms increased 7425%. Although Wal-Mart attempts to tout its bipartisanship, the Wal-Mart PAC has given the vast majority of its over $7.5 million in the past decade to the Republican Party and other conservative groups.

“With more than $12 billion in profits last year, Wal-Mart is the biggest and arguably most powerful corporation in America. Sam Walton's heirs, the majority owners of the company, are worth over $100 billion -- making them the wealthiest and certainly one of the most influential families in America.”

KC's View:
A tangential political note here, if I may…

There was news coverage this weekend about how GOP vice presidential candidate and Alaska Governor Sarah Palin went shopping at a West Virginia Walmart, picking up a number of items (like diapers for her infant son) while simultaneously trolling for votes.

She made the point while shopping that Democratic presidential candidate and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama doesn’t visit and understand places like Walmart and West Virginia. But it may be fair to suggest that Palin doesn’t entirely understand Walmart and some of its priorities – since she walked out of the store carrying products in two enormous plastic bags, not the reusable canvas bags that Walmart sells and that illustrate the company’s environmental agenda.

Walmart’s influence isn’t as simple as its support for this candidate or that one, or this initiative or that one. Chronicling its influence certainly is appropriate, but assuming that everything is black and white would be a big mistake.