Apparel retailers, like other sectors, are knee-deep this election year in making campaign contributions through company political action committees. While the presidential race has the most visibility, the PACs also support House and Senate candidates deemed friendly to industry issues such as lowering taxes and import tariffs. The retail PAC coffers are filled with contributions from executives who can, by law, give up to $2,000 to Federal candidates and $5,000 to PACs.
This story first appeared in the October 28, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
- Wal-Mart Stores Inc.
2004: Gave $2,539,538; cash on hand — $108,790; party breakdown: 79 percent to Republicans, 21 percent to Democrats.
2000: Gave $667,805; party breakdown: 85 percent to Republicans, 14 percent to Democrats, 1 percent to other.
Wal-Mart’s PAC has ballooned since 2000, when the company spent $667,805, with the majority going to Republican candidates. The company is the most generous retail political booster by far. This campaign season, chief executive officer Lee Scott gave the maximum $2,000 to Bush, while the company’s PAC donated $5,000. Jay Allen, senior vice president for corporate affairs, raised upward of $100,000 for the President, garnering the Bush campaign’s Pioneer status. Wal-Mart is concerned with lowering global trade barriers, health reform and opposing a federal minimum-wage increase.
- Sears, Roebuck & Co.
2004: Gave $295,221; cash on hand — $264,373; party breakdown: 66 percent to Republicans, 33 percent to Democrats, 1 percent to other.
2000: Gave $109,330; party breakdown: 70 percent to Republicans, 30 percent to Democrats.
Sears is concerned with reforming bankruptcy laws, but its efforts have so far been thwarted. Since the company reopened its lobbying office in Washington in 2001 after a hiatus, it has become more active in political affairs. The company’s chairman, Alan Lacey, donated the maximum $2,000 to the Bush reelection effort.
- Target Corp.
2004: Gave $279,526; cash on hand — $36,634; party breakdown: 73 percent to Republicans, 26 percent Democrats, 1 percent to other.
2000: Gave $138,500; party breakdown: 58 percent to Republicans, 42 percent to Democrats.
Target Corp. executives provided personal financial support for Bush. The company hires a local lobbyist to keep a daily eye on Congressional and agency issues on trade, labor regulations and health care reform, but its main lobbying operations are based at its headquarters in Minneapolis.
- May Department Stores
2004: Gave $196,622; cash on hand — $60,353; party breakdown: 86 percent to Republicans, 13 percent to Democrats, 1 percent to other.
2000: Gave $250,512; party breakdown: 67 percent to Republicans, 33 percent to Democrats.
May Co. uses an outside lobbying firm to press its case in Congress on the need for bankruptcy reform, health care reform and tax issues such as creating a national sales tax holiday. Ceo Eugene Kahn gave $2,000 to the Bush campaign.
- Limited Brands
2004: Gave $137,598; cash on hand — $74,431; party breakdown: 78 percent to Republicans, 22 percent to Democrats.
2000: Gave $244,800; party breakdown: 74 percent to Republicans, 26 percent to Democrats.
Limited Brands chairman and ceo Leslie Wexner is very involved in Republican politics and a big personal contributor. Wexner, along with Bruce Soll, Limited’s senior vice president and general counsel, gave the Bush effort $2,000, the maximum individual contribution for a primary election, while Limited Stores ceo Charles Turlinski has achieved Pioneer status. The Limited uses a variety of Washington lobbying firms to push its trade agenda in addition to its own full-time lobbyist.
- J.C. Penney Co.
2004: Gave $133,984; cash on hand — $112,676; party breakdown: 86 percent to Republicans, 13 percent to Democrats, 1 percent to other.
2000: Gave $237,209; party breakdown: 79 percent to Republicans, 21 percent to Democrats.
Penney’s several years ago closed its Washington lobbying office and now runs its lobbying operations from its Dallas headquarters, where it spends most of its budget. The chain also hires outside lobbyists. In addition to trade, one of Penney’s pet issues is securing tax breaks for tenants that renovate stores.
- Saks Inc.
2004: Gave $36,050; cash on hand — $51,152; party breakdown: 91 percent to Republicans, 9 percent to Democrats.
2000: Gave $30,891; party breakdown: 78 percent to Republicans, 22 percent to Democrats.
Saks Inc. ceo R. Brad Martin contributed the maximum to Bush’s reelection campaign. Saks Inc. directs its lobbying operation from its Birmingham, Ala., headquarters and targets specific issues such as bankruptcy reform and legislation lowering tariffs on high-quality wool used in wool tailored clothing.
- Gap Inc.
2004: Gave $34,143; cash on hand — $46,703; party breakdown: 68 percent to Democrats, 27 percent to Republicans, 5 percent to other.
2000: Gave $33,250; cash on hand — $10,370; party breakdown: 51 percent to Democrats, 49 percent to Republicans.
Robert Fisher, chairman of Gap and son of the company’s founder, Donald Fisher, has endorsed John Kerry and made the maximum $25,000 contribution to the Democratic National Committee. His father, Gap’s former chairman, has historically been a Republican supporter and helped finance the Bush campaign with a $2,000 contribution. His wife, Doris, a Gap board member, gave $2,000 to Bush and another $10,000 to GOP PACs.
- Federated Department Stores
2004: Gave $5,000; cash on hand — $3,428; party breakdown: 100 percent to Republicans.
2000: Gave $9,022; party breakdown: 100 percent to Republicans.
Federated Department Stores ceo Terry Lundgren added $2,000 to Bush’s coffers during the third quarter. The company used $3,000 of its PAC’s $3,428 cash on hand to give $1,000 to its hometown Cincinnati Republican Rep. Steve Chabot and $2,000 to GOP Ohio Sen. Mike DeWine. Federated, which relies on lobbyists with the National Retail Federation, has said its PAC isn’t a priority.
- Kmart Corp.
2004: Gave $0; cash on hand — $5,390; party breakdown: not applicable.
2000: Gave $35,379; party breakdown: 92 percent to Republicans; 8 percent to Democrats.
Kmart, which supports textile trade liberalizing issues, has yet to make a contribution to the presidential campaign. The company historically has supported Republicans, but has been on the political sidelines while rebuilding its business after emerging from bankruptcy in May 2003. Kmart relies on a Washington lobbying firm, but until two years ago it also used a lobbyist on staff based in Troy, Mich.
Source: The PAC data listed comes from the FEC, while the percentage of funds directed to Democrats and Republicans has been calculated by the Center for Responsive Politics. Here are the 10 most generous PACs for the two-year election cycle ending Nov. 2, Election Day, with a comparison to the last comparable election cycle of 2000. Information is current through Oct. 20, the latest FEC filing date for PACs.