Election Day 2012 in Review: Grading the Waltons

Members of the Walton family, as we know, are active political donors, using their fortune to back right-wing candidates and causes. This election cycle was no exception.  Now that Election Day 2012 is in the rearview mirror, let’s take a look at some notable results from contests that the Waltons contributed money to. In recognition of the Waltons’ commitment to corporate-style education reform, we will grade their results and then rate how they did overall. (We’re basing these grades on whether their preferred candidates or issues won, regardless of how noxious the candidates or issues are!)


check   Benton County alcohol sales: Down in Walmart’s home county, two Walton family members supported—and largely bankrolled—a successful ballot initiative to allow alcohol sales in the county. (Benton County had been dry since 1935.) According to state ethics reports, Steuart and Tom Walton, sons of Walmart director Jim Walton and grandsons of Walmart founder Sam Walton, together contributed $589,000 to the political committee running the effort—89% of the total money raised by the committee. With 47,712 votes in favor of selling alcohol in Benton County, the Walton brothers spent about $12.34 for each yes vote their cause received.  Comments: We’ve got nothing against alcohol, but wow, that’s a lot of money for a county-level election. We wonder what else that money could have been used for.

xIndiana state superintendent’s race: Back in July, Alice Walton sent a $200,000 check to Tony “Not That Tony Bennett” Bennett, who ran for re-election as the state’s Superintendent of Public Instruction. Bennett, a Republican, is a corporate education reformer known for his work to create the country’s largest school voucher program. He’s also a supporter of high-stakes testing and merit pay for teachers linked to student test scores. Though Bennett was an incumbent and had a 5-to-1 fundraising advantage, his opponent, teacher Glenda Ritz, scored a surprise upset against him through grassroots organizing among teachers who wanted to see an end to Bennett’s policies. Comments: Citizens were more powerful than money in this race.

checkCharter school amendments: Alice Walton contributed $600,000 in support of a constitutional amendment in Georgia allowing the establishment of charter schools. The measure passed. Across the country in Washington, the result of a charter school initiative is still too close to call. Alice Walton gave $1.7 million in favor of the initiative, which was nicknamed “the billionaires’ initiative” because of massive financial support from Walton and other colossally wealthy donors like Bill Gates. This is the fourth time that a charter school initiative has been on the ballot in Washington; all of the previous initiatives failed including the one in 2004, to which Alice’s late brother, John, gave $1.02 million. Comments: In Georgia; the initiative passed easily. We have yet to see what happens in Washington.

xMontana Senate race: Denny Rehberg and incumbent Democratic Sen. Jon Tester faced off in a hotly contested race for Senate in Montana. Tester’s seat had been targeted by Republicans as one they hoped to turn from blue to red this year, and Rob and Melani Walton each threw $2,500 behind Rehberg, who has a dismal record on employment discrimination and supported Arizona’s controversial immigration law. But around 9 am on Wednesday morning the Associated Press called the race in favor of Senator Tester. Comments: The Democrats still control the Senate, and the Waltons’ money didn’t tip the scales in this race.

xPresidential race: Well, you might have heard by now that Mitt Romney lost (we hear that news has been making the rounds). The Waltons gave Romney and Restore Our Future, the pro-Romney Super PAC, a total of $415,000 this election cycle.[1] Comments: Fortunately for the Waltons, that’s a mere 0.00036% of their family’s estimated $115 billion net worth.


On the five races here that have been officially decided, the Waltons’ side came out victorious in just two. Looks like the Waltons are finishing this election cycle with a 40% win rate. Would a grade like that pass muster with the high-stakes testing proponents, or would the Waltons get shut down for failing?

[1] Data from OpenSecrets.org. Alice Walton gave $2,500 to Romney and $200,000 to Restore Our Future, Jim Walton gave $5,000 to Romney and $200,000 to Restore Our Future, Jim’s wife Lynne Walton gave $5,000, and Jim’s son Steuart Walton gave $2,500.

What do you think?