Names in the News: Wal-Mart and its Founding Family
Publication Date: August 2004
Publisher(s): National Institute on Money in State Politics (U.S.)
Author(s): Chris Synnes
Wal-Mart has become the world's single largest retailer, quickly making its way to the top of the Fortune
500 List for the third year running. Wal-Mart's Web site notes that it operates more than 3,200 domestic
stores and another 1,300 stores in nine foreign countries. The company employs a work force of 1.3
million worldwide. Its annual sales totaled nearly $245 billion, exceeding many small countries' Gross
Domestic Product. Family members of founder Sam Walton now hold five of the top 10 spots in Forbes
magazine's list of the world's richest people.
The Walton family has struck it rich with the friendly, all-American persona its company portrays --
quality, low prices, selection and service with a smile. Yet Wal-Mart has not become the world's largest
retailer on these qualities alone. It has worked hard in recent years to forward its interests through political
giving, both by members of the Walton family and by the company itself.
Since the 1998 election cycle, the Waltons and Wal-Mart stores have given more than $2.1 million to
state-level political candidates and parties. During the same time, their business holdings have grown and
controversies have arisen over wage and work practices and efforts to locate stores in some areas.