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B y now, almost everyone knows the story of Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, private employer (it has more than 5,000 stores; 3,400 in the U.S.), and the largest company based on revenue, with more than $280 billion in sales. Wal-Mart’s discounted prices, however, come with a heavy price tag. Workers are underpaid and overworked in sweatshops overseas, while their non-union counterparts in the U.S. often cannot afford healthcare. When Wal-Mart comes to town, many small businesses close down, permanently changing the “civil fabric” of local communities. The company’s bottom line is dependent on soaking up hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies extracted from cash-strapped county budgets. A May 2004 study by the Washington, DC-based Good Jobs First entitled “Shopping for Subsidies: How Wal-Mart Uses Taxpayer Money to Finance Its Never Ending Growth” found that the company siphoned more than one billion dollars in economic development subsidies from state and local governments across the country. Wal-Mart has also been the target of a flood of lawsuits; it is currently the defendant in the largest sex-discrimination class-action lawsuit ever, a suit representing more than 1.5 million women.
Wal-Mart, and the Walton family that runs the company founded by Sam Walton, devotes a significant portion of its holdings to boosting conservative political candidates and a conservative social agenda centered on the privatization of public education.
The National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP) offers some context in its report, “The Waltons and Wal-Mart: SelfInterested Philanthropy:” “Philanthropic grant-making and campaign contributions to political action committees (PACs), as well as to candidates, increasingly represents the surplus capital of the wealthy, which they can devote to promoting their sociopolitical worldview.”
The NCRP report notes, “Corporations and their foundations in 2004 contributed $12 billion in cash and in-kind donations to charities.” A “lack of government regulation over the reporting of those contributions,” makes tracking “the true amount of corporate gifts nearly impossible.”
It is “even more difficult,” the NCRP report maintains, “to uncover the true intent behind many corporate philanthropic projects.” While companies benefit in a number of ways when gifts to non-controversial charities are acknowledged and publicized, donations to politically charged campaigns and causes often raise the hackles of both stockholders and customers. In recent years “little government oversight and a general lack of transparency” have become the spawning grounds for “the misuse and abuse of corporation philanthropy,” as witnessed by scandals involving Enron and Tyco International, which included “questionable board and executive uses of corporate philanthropy.”
B entonville, Arkansas is home to the Walton family and the Wal-Mart corporate empire. Andy Serwer reported in an extensive profile in the November 15, 2004 Fortune magazine that the family controls “about 39 percent [4.3 billion shares] of Wal-Mart stock, worth some $90 billion, which makes them by far the richest family in the U.S.”
According to the NCRP report, “although all family members have had business ventures and wealth independent of their inheritance, the bulk of the family’s fortune is managed together by Walton Enterprises.” On an annual basis, the Walton’s $90 billion “produces dividends upward of $800 million.”
When Sam Walton died in 1992, he left “the bulk of his wealth” to his wife, Helen, and their four children. According to the NCRP, Sam Robson Walton is the eldest son and has been chair of the Board of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. John, who recently died, was “the activist in the family, working to fund political campaigns for school vouchers and charter schools and directing much of the family’s charitable giving.” Jim, the youngest son, “is CEO of the Walton family’s financial division, Arvest Holdings, which owns Arvest Bank…the largest bank in Arkansas.” He also “heads” Walton Enterprises and owns the local newspaper in Bentonville. Alice is apparently the only Walton child that “does not directly control any of the family enterprises.”
With strong encouragement from Helen, Sam Walton started his family foundation with $1,000 in 1987. By the time Sam Walton died five years later, he left the foundation $172 million. NWANews.com’s Mark Minton pointed out in November 2004 that, according to the Walton Family Foundation’s tax return filed that same month, it “held assets worth $733.9 million at the end of 2003.”
While assorted members of the Walton family have established their own philanthropic projects, the Walton Family Foundation and the Wal-Mart Foundations are the flagship foundations. The Walton Family Foundation already gives out more than $100 million a year—much of it to opponents of public school education—and it may receive as much as an additional $20 billion when Helen dies.
Despite donations to Planned Parenthood and $5 million for the establishment of Walton Arts Center near the university campus in Fayetteville, Arkansas, the Walton family has been a champion of alternatives to public education. It has supported the establishment of charter schools and private school choice. “It gave a string of grants totaling nearly $3 million to the national Knowledge is Power Program, which recruits teachers to create public college prep charter schools in underserved communities,” Minter reported. “The gifts included donations to 21 such schools around the country.”
According to the NCRP report, “almost all political contributions made by Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Political Action Committee for Responsive Government, and individual family members, are directed toward Republican candidates for public office or Republican political committees. Of $2.1 million given in 2004, $1.6 million went to the GOP, while less than $500,000 went to Democrats.
Newsweek reported that WMF has consistently ranked first in total giving based only on cash contributions. Wal-Mart reported that WMF gave more than $170 million in 2004, up nearly $60 million from two years earlier. According to the company’s figures, “more than 90 percent” of its donations go through its local stores.
Schools for Profit
A ccording to its 2003 IRS tax filing, the Walton Family Foundation (WFF) was the 63rd largest foundation in terms of assets ($733 plus million) and 25th largest in terms of giving ($107 million).
The WFF concentrates its giving on three spheres: “systematic reform in education,” focusing on K-12; “the northwest region of Arkansas”; and “the Delta region of Arkansas and Mississippi.” The WFF also concentrates on funding charter school initiatives, Educational Options Scholarship Initiatives, school improvement, and Arkansas education. Before his death, John Walton was “one of the nation’s leading private individual funders of charter schools and voucher initiatives.”
The NCRP, looking into the WFF’s penchant for spearheading the privatization movement, asks: “Why is the richest family in the world so committed to education and specifically to school choice, when they themselves mostly attended public school to apparently good effect?
“Some critics argue that it is the beginning of the ‘Wal-Martization’ of education, and a move to forprofit schooling, from which the family could potentially financially benefit. John Walton owned 240,000 shares of Tesseract Group Inc. (formerly known as Education Alternatives Inc.), which is a forprofit company that develops/manages charter and private school as well as public schools.”
The WFF provides more than $1 million to each of the following socalled school reform/choice groups: the American Education Reform Council, the Center for Education Reform, Children’s Scholarship Fund, Colorado League of Charter Schools, and the Florida School Choice Fund. The Children’s Educational Opportunity Foundation of America (also known as Children’s First America) received $10.3 million in 2003 and $8.3 million in 2002.
The WFF has also supported the Washington, DC-based Black Alliance for Education Options (BAEO), an African Americanheaded group that “works to advertise and market the school voucher movement to African-American families” (www.baeo.org). In October 2002 BAEO received a $600,000 grant from the Bush administration. “We want to change the conversation about parental choice by positively influencing individuals who are resisting parental choice options and get them to reconsider their outlook,” Undersecretary of Education Gene Hickok said when he announced the grant. The Black Commentator characterized the BAEO as “the school vouchers propaganda outfit created by the far-right [Harry and Lynde] Bradley Foundation.”
In addition to its support for the “school reform” movement, the WFF “funds pro-voucher think tanks like the Goldwater Institute and the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research.” In a short piece, titled “John Walton and the Walton Family Foundation,” People for the American Way point out, “On the legislative front, John Walton personally contributed $2 million to the failed 2000 Michigan voucher initiative as well as $250,000 to California’s Prop 174 in 1993, another unsuccessful voucher initiative. Walton also bankrolled the California effort through his American Education Reform Foundation, as well as an unsuccessful 1997 voucher campaign in Minnesota.”
The National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy concludes its report by pointing out that, “Wal-Mart and the Walton family have only recently begun to translate their vast wealth into political power.” While Sam Walton expressed little interest in national politics, his progeny have moved in that direction.
Bill Berkowitz is a freelance writer covering conservative issues and policies.
Z Magazine Archive
AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
FARM CONFERENCE - The Farm Conference on Community and Sustainability will be held May 24-26 in Summertown, TN, in partnership with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. Tour green homes, see sustainable food production, learn about solar installations, alternative education, midwifery, and more.
Contact: Douglas@thefarmcommunity.com; http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/.
PALESTINE - The Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North American will be held June 3-5 in Vancouver. The conference will examine the future of the Palestinian liberation movement.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.palestinianconference.org/.
LABOR - The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association’s 45th annual conference will be held May 3-5, in Portland, OR. This year’s theme is Labor Under Attack: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future. A call for presentations, workshops and papers is currently underway.
Contact: PNLHA, 27920 68th Ave. East, Graham, WA 98338; 206-406-2604; PNLHA1@aol.com; http://www3.telus.net.
MARIJUANA - On the first Saturday of May marijuana legalization activists will hold informational and educational events, rallies and marches in over 300 cities around the world.
ECONOMICS - The Union For Radical Political Economics will hold its 39th annual conference May 9-11 in New York City.
RECLAIM THE DREAM - The 2013 Poor People’s Campaign & March from Baltimore to Washington D.C. will be May 11. Communities, schools and unions interested in participating are encouraged to contact the Baltimore People’s Assembly.
Contact: 410-500-2168; 410-218-4835; BaltimorePeoplesAssembly@gmail.com; Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore and the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly, 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218.
MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
Contact: http://www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org/; http://mothersdaywalk4peace.org/.
NATO 5 - An International Week of Solidarity with the NATO 5 has been called for May 16-21. Supports call on supporters to raise awareness of the NATO 5 and support funds for the defendants on the one-year anniversary of their preemptive arrests.
Contact: email@example.com; https://nato5support.wordpress.com.
MOUNTAINTOP - The 2013 Mountain Justice Summer Activist Training Camp will be held May 19-27 in Damascus, VA. It will be a week of workshops, field trips to view Mountain Top Removal coal mines, direct actions, and service project.
FEMINIST SCI-FI - The feminist science fiction convention WisCon 37 is scheduled for May 24-27 in Madison, WI.
Contact: WisCon, ? SF3, PO Box 1624, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.wiscon.info/.
ANARCHY FEST - A month-long Festival of Anarchy is scheduled for May in Montreal. The festival includes The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair (May 19-20).
Contact: http://www.anarchistbookfair.ca/; http://www.radicalmontreal.com/.
LABOR - The International Labor Rights Forum will present: Down the Supply Chain, Driving Corporate Accountability, on May 22 in Washington, DC. The Labor Rights Awards Ceremony and Reception will honor pioneers in supply chain worker organizing, working solidarity and international labor rights policy.
MULTICULTURE - The 26th annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) will take place May 28-June 1, in New Orleans.
Contact: SWCHRS, 3200 Marshall Avenue, Suite 290, Norman, OK 73072; 405-325-3694; email@example.com; www.ncore.ou.edu.
MEDIA - The 2013 Alliance for Community Media Annual Conference will be held May 29-31, in San Francisco, CA. Participants will include educators, community leaders, media professionals, journalists, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and students.
RADIO - The 38th Annual Community Radio Conference is schedule for May 29-June 1, in San Francisco, CA, with discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20004; 202-756-2268; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.nfcb.org/.
BRADLEY MANNING - On June 1, a rally will be held at Fort Meade in support of Bradley Manning.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike-A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides scheduled, music, exhibitors and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; email@example.com; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in New York City.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduated Center, ? Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16, in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops on civil rights, media and other topics.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; email@example.com http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5 day Seminar at University of Havana, plus visits to a cooperative, urban garden, community development project, social research centers, and educational & medical institutions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.globaljusticecenter.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; email@example.com; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process throughout the U.S.
SOCIALISM - The Socialism 2013 Conference is scheduled for June 27-30 in Chicago, featuring talks and panel discussions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.socialismconference.org.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles under the heading, Intersections: Teaching and Learning Across Media.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from branches across the continent to learn new skills and build One Big Union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13th, the 11th Annual Peacestock: A Gathering for Peace, will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; email@example.com; http://www.peacestockvfp.org.
CHILDREN’S DEFENSE - July 15-19, join clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates for children at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, for five days of spiritual renewal, networking, movement building workshops, and continuing education about the urgent needs of children at the 19th annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.childrensdefense.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference in the world.
Contact: email@example.com; http://yeacamp.org/.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
LABOR - The Eastern Conference For Workplace Democracy: Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities, will be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, July 26-28.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://east.usworker.coop/.
WOMEN/LYNNE STEWART- Radical Women is asking for support letters and cards to be sent to Lynne Stewart. Stewart is a civil rights attorney and political prisoner who is currently in jail. She has breast cancer and authorities have denied her request for transfer from her Texas prison to the New York City hospital where she received medical attention during a prior bout of breast cancer. Send messages and cards to: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, Federal Medical Center Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.
Contact: 747 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109; 415-864-1278; RadicalWomenUS@gmail.com; http://lynnestewart.org/; http://www.radicalwomen.org/.
HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
Contact: 121 West 27th Street, #301, New York, NY 10001; 212-627-0444; email@example.com; http://www.madre.org.
SYRIA/MIDDLE EAST - The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) is currently seeking funds to assist more than 200,000 refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
FOLK FESTIVAL - The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival will be held August 2-4, in the Berkshires, NY.
Contact: http://www.falconridgefolk.com/; firstname.lastname@example.org.
WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
Contact: 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-228-0450; email@example.com; http://www.warresisters.org.
POPULAR ECONOMICS - The Center for Popular Economics is holding its 2013 Summer Institute August 4-9 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. No background in economics is needed for this intensive training. This year’s theme is, The Care Economy: Building a Just Economy with a Heart.
Contact: Center for Popular Economics, PO Box 785 Amherst, MA 01004; 413-545-0743; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.populareconomics.org.
VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
DEMOCRACY - The Democracy Convention will take place August 7-11 in Madison, WI. The convention brings together nine conferences including topics such as media, education, defense, race, environment and others.
MEN - The 38th National Conference on Men & Masculinity: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, presented in partnership with HAVEN, will be held in Detroit, MI, August 8-10.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.nomas.org/.
OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://occupynationalgathering.net/.
COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
Contact: PO Box 1137, Lawrence, MA 01842; 978-794-1655; http://www.breadandrosesheritage.org/.
OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
Contact: 415-676-7844; email@example.com; http://www.t4sj.org/.
HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.