If you’re super rich, can you buy yourself a new political pedigree? It’s starting to look that way. Greg Penner, the Walmart 1 Percent’s man in California, is trying to convince people he’s a political independent, despite the fact that he has a long history of supporting right-wing candidates and causes.
Penner has co-founded a new organization in the state called Govern for California. His organization has been making the media rounds and has gotten some coverage from the Sacramento Bee and the San Francisco Chronicle. The coverage has also typically downplayed Penner’s connection to Walmart and the nation’s richest family, the Waltons.
Typical of the coverage was this line from the SF Chronicle which described Penner as “a former Walmart executive who now runs a Menlo Park investment management firm.” The problem is that his ties to Walmart run just a little deeper.
It is true that Penner is a former Walmart executive. But, he is also a current member of the company’s Board of Directors. Penner is also a member of the Walton family (son-in-law to Walmart Board Chair Rob Walton), which controls roughly half of all Walmart stock and is worth more than $100 billion. Finally, the “Menlo Park investment firm” is Madrone Partners, a fund which primarily manages the Walton family’s billions. To us, those connections seem like valuable information for people trying to understand what Govern for California is really about.
An analysis of Penner’s political giving shows that he gives almost exclusively to Republicans. Between the years of 1990 to 2010, Penner gave more than $600,000 to various candidates at both the state and federal level. A total of 90 percent of Penner’s donations at the federal level went to GOP candidates or party committees. The story is the same in California, where 78 percent of his state-level contributions went to Republicans. That’s hardly the resume of a political independent.
Penner has shown that he doesn’t just support Republican candidates. He’s contributed to conservative causes, like the effort to stop an initiative that would established universal preschool by placing a tax on wealthy individuals in California.
But, the truth about Penner’s politics and the depth of his Walmart ties isn’t a mystery to everyone. In California this week, a coalition of community members students, union members and activists included Mr. Penner in their report “California’s 1%: 12 Rich Californians That are Killing the Recovery.” We encourage you to go to the site now and vote for him to be Mr. 1% California! The word is getting around.