Walmart (WMT) has been thrust into a national reckoning over gun policy, after 31 people died in two mass shootings over the weekend, one of which took place at the company’s store in El Paso, Texas. On Tuesday, police responded to a shooting at another Walmart in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Critics have faulted the company for its continued sale of firearms. But less attention has been paid to the millions in campaign contributions that Walmart’s political action committee (PAC) has given in recent years to Republican candidates for Congress, many of whom have voted against gun reform measures and received funding from the National Rifle Association.
“It’s no surprise Walmart has backed candidates who’ve opposed commons sense gun reform,” said Andrew Patrick, media director with the advocacy group Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. “They’ve tended toward the Republican side and that side has historically been opposed to passing gun legislation.”
In the most recent election cycle, spanning 2017 and 2018, a Walmart-affiliated political fundraising group gave about $655,000 to Republican candidates for the U.S. House and Senate, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Those contributions nearly match the some $690,000 given by the NRA to Republican candidates over the same period.
Over a decade, from 2009 to 2018, Republican congressional candidates received $3.17 million in campaign contributions from the Walmart-affiliated PAC, called Walmart Inc. PAC for Responsible Government, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.
Among 2018 candidates for the U.S. House, four of the top eight recipients of Walmart contributions were Republicans who have received an A or A+ rating from the NRA: Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), Rep. Steve Womack (R-AR), Rep. Steve Stivers (R-OH), and Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-AR). In the 2018 election cycle, each candidate received $10,000 from the Walmart’s political fundraising group, in addition to thousands in funds they received from the NRA.
In February, the four House representatives joined hundreds of their colleagues in voting against the most recent gun control legislation taken up by Congress: two bills that would expand mandatory background checks and close a loophole that allows for the sale of a gun if a background check isn’t finished within three days.
Both bills passed the Democrat-controlled House but are unlikely to pass the Republican-controlled Senate.
‘Take responsibility for their actions’
The mass shooting at an El Paso-area Walmart took place on Saturday, when the suspect — identified as Patrick Crusius — killed 22 people and injured more than two dozen.
To be sure, the Walmart-affiliated political fundraising group has made contributions to some Democrats who support gun control. In the 2018 election cycle, the company gave 44% of its donations to Democrats, a sum that amounted to $515,500.
The most recent efforts to pass gun control in the upper chamber happened in 2013, when Democrats held the majority. As expected, a ban on assault weapons failed to come close to the 60 votes necessary to overcome a Republican filibuster.
But a bipartisan proposal to expand background checks, put forward by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Sen. Pat Toomey (D-PA), was thought to have a better chance. It also failed by a vote of 54-46.
Of the 46 senators who voted against the bill, 37 had either received campaign donations from Walmart or have received them since.
Walmart did not respond to a request for comment. “We’re praying for the victims, the community and our associates, as well as the first responders who are on the scene,” the company said in a statement about the shooting.
Walmart should “stop funding candidates unless they support common sense gun control legislation,” Harris says. “They need to take corporate responsibility and responsibility for their actions.”
Max Zahn is a reporter for Yahoo Finance.