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Press release/statement

New Demos Report Reveals Retail’s Increasing Political Spending

(NEW YORK, NY) – Following the nation’s most expensive mid-term election cycle, where political spending hit an unprecedented $3.7 billion high, the national public policy organization Demos has released a new report on the federal election spending of big box retail companies.

By examining federal campaign spending and lobbying of the nation’s top earning big box retailers, Retail Politics: How America’s Big Box Retailers Turn Their Economic Power into Political Influence  found these companies spent a combined $30 million on elections and lobbying during the 2014 election cycle – up from the $5.2 million that was spent in 2000.

“This election cycle, big retail spent six times what they spent in 2000,” said Catherine Ruetschlin, Senior Policy Analyst and author of the report. “Through excessive campaign spending, these companies leverage their economic power into law, using their massive profits to influence policy and embed the economic disparity that is at the heart of their low-wage business model into our democracy.”

Key findings include:

  • The big box retailers spent a total $111 million since the 2000 election cycle lobbying Congress on such issues as corporate tax reform, health care, and labor, antitrust, and workplace regulations
  • Big box retail donates widely, but shows partisan preferences for Republicans by a margin of more that 2-to-1 over Democrats.
  • Walmart and Home Depot are ranked among the 100 biggest political donors in the country

The report also looks at the spending of the Walton family heirs, who own the majority of public shares in big box retailer Walmart. It finds that they spent a total of $7.3 million in campaign contributions between 2000 and 2014.

“While the Waltons’ donations heavily favor conservatives, they give on both sides of the aisle, including to candidates that were competing against each other in Senatorial and House races,” said Ruetschlin. “This ensures that their interests will be accounted for no matter the race’s outcome. Through lobbying and campaign spending, these companies and their wealthy owners are able to reduce their responsibility for sustaining the economic system from which they prosper.”

Retail Politics is a part of Demos’ ongoing work to reduce the role of money in politics. Our foundational report, Stacked Deck: How the Dominance of Politics by the Affluent & Business Undermines Economic Mobility in America reveals the connection between political inequality and economic mobility, highlighting the donor class’ outsized influence through political spending and civic participation advantages.

Additional Resources:



Nikki Cannon, Demos
[email protected]
(212) 485-6012

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Demos is a public policy organization working for an America where we all have an equal say in our democracy and an equal chance in our economy. Learn more at