Walmart Lobbying in 2011: 99 Lobbyists and $7.6 Million. Biggest Issue: Taxes

Walmart Lobbying in 2011: 99 Lobbyists and $7.6 Million. Biggest Issue: Taxes

Reports filed in January show that Walmart spent $7.6 million lobbying the federal government in 2011, more than the company has ever spent on federal lobbying since it first entered the fray in the late 1990s.

During the course of 2011, 99 different lobbyists worked on behalf of Walmart. They covered 22 different issue areas, and lobbied government officials from Congress to the White House, from the Department of Labor to the Treasury. They lobbied USAID, the EPA, the Department of Health and Human Services, even the National Security Council.

In addition to the company’s multitude of in-house lobbyists, Walmart employs some of the biggest names[1] in Washington, like Patton Boggs, the Podesta Group, and Mehlman Vogel Castagnetti. While they were working for Walmart, Mehlman Vogel Castagnetti also had lobbyists working for the now infamous Koch Industries. In fact, the same fourteen lobbyists represented both companies.

What was Walmart lobbying on? According to the company’s reports filed with the Senate Office of Public Records, Walmart lobbied on an array of issues ranging from taxes to labor issues to consumer safety. But, the company had the largest number of firms and the largest number of lobbyists working on issues related to taxation and the Internal Revenue Service. Although the forms provide little detail about specific issues, it isn’t surprising that the company was lobbying on corporate tax reform and online sales taxes.

Walmart has a history of aggressively seeking to reduce taxes. The Wall Street Journal wrote in 2007 about Walmart’s hiring of accounting firm Ernst and Young “to help devise complex tax strategies to use in at least four big states. The accounting firm, for example, helped Wal-Mart take tax deductions in California for dividends it never actually paid.”[2]

The organization Citizens for Tax Justice issued a bulletin in 2007 finding that “Wal-Mart avoided $2.3 billion in state income taxes, cutting its payment to state governments almost in half between 1999 and 2005.”[3]

In addition to cutting their tax bills, the company has also worked to win subsidies from state and local government. The organization Good Jobs First found that Walmart has received “more than $1.2 billion in tax breaks, free land, infrastructure assistance, low-cost financing and outright grants from state and local governments around the country.”[4]

Just last month, Massachusetts residents raised concerns that a change in Walmart’s tax classification from a Limited Partnership to a Corporation will cost small towns in the state hundreds of thousands of dollars.[5]

After joining with small business owners in opposition to a deal that would have given Amazon a tax break for opening a new distribution center in South Carolina this spring, Walmart turned around and announced plans to open or relocate stores in South Carolina, claiming it would create 4,000 jobs in the state.[6] One South Carolina blogger called it “the most brutal act of backstabbing” he’d ever seen.[7]

A summary of all issues Walmart lobbied on in 2011 is below, ranked by the number of firms and the average number of lobbyists working on issues.

Issue

No. firms working on issue

Avg. no. Lobbyists per quarter

Taxation/Internal Revenue Code

9

35

Labor Issues/Antitrust/Workplace

6

25

Financial Institutions/Investments/Securities

6

19

Food Industry (Safety, Labeling, Etc)

5

20

Environment/Superfund

5

16

Health Issues

4

11

Homeland Security

3

17

Consumer Issues/Safety/Products

3

12

Immigration

3

7

Energy/Nuclear

3

5

Trade (Domestic/Foreign)

2

11

Banking

2

6

Transportation

2

6

Law Enforcement/Crime/Criminal Justice

2

3

Economics/Economic Development

2

2

Real Estate/Land Use/Conservation

1

< 1

Communications/Broadcasting/Radio/TV

1

13

Bankruptcy

1

10

Civil Rights/Civil Liberties

1

2

Pharmacy

1

2

Federal Budget and Appropriations

1

1

Unemployment

1

1

          Source: Analysis of data from the Senate Lobbying Disclosure Act Database


[1] http://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/top.php?showYear=2011&indexType=l

[2] Jesse Drucker,“Inside Walmart’s Bid to Slash State Taxes.”   The Wall Street Journal.   October 23, 2007.

[5] http://www.publicbroadcasting.net/wamc/news.newsmain?action=article&ARTICLE_ID=1892849

[6] http://www.wltx.com/news/article/135581/2/Lexington-Residents-React-to-Walmart-Announcement

[7] http://www.charlestoncitypaper.com/HaireoftheDog/archives/2011/05/04/haley-and-walmart-pull-one-over-on-small-biz-coalition-that-stopped-amazon

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