RETAILERS BET MOST OF THE MONEY ON GOP LEGISLATIVE CANDIDATES

Byline: Joyce Barrett

WASHINGTON — Republican House and Senate candidates got the lion’s share of spending by major department store and chain retailers on Tuesday’s Congressional elections, according to Federal Election Commission reports.
Of the $775,843 spent by political action committees of such retailers as J.C. Penney Co., Wal-Mart Stores, May Department Stores Co. and The Limited, from the start of 1995 through mid-October 1996, Republicans received 89 percent, or $688,147, FEC reports showed. Democrats, on the other hand, received just 11 percent, or $87,696. Of the 678 House and Senate candidates who received funding from these merchants, 581, or 86 percent, were Republican candidates and 14 percent, or 97, were Democrats.
Retailers based their political giving this year on trade and on candidate’s positions on issues such as tax reform, regulatory reform and labor management, said John Motley, senior vice president government and public affairs.
“We want to keep a pro-retail pro-business Congress,” Motley said. Democrats were largely left out of the contributions because many of retail’s friends on that side of the aisle are retiring or aren’t facing tough competitors. “We looked high and low for Democrats to give to,” he said.
In addition to considering policy stances, retailers sought to back candidates who have some experience in the industry in the hopes that they would have an appreciation of the industry’s needs, Motley said. For instance, Rudy Boschwitz, a Republican running for Senate in Minnesota who owns several home improvement stores, received contributions from pacs belonging to Spiegel, Dayton Hudson Corp., Penney’s, May Co., Montgomery Ward, The Limited and the NRF.
Giving by the industry increased this election cycle over past years, Motley said, primarily because the industry decided it needed a higher profile on Capitol Hill to fight what he described as the “political power way beyond what the textile industry should have. One of our priorities this year was building a political program, and we’ve made a good start. I hope we’ll continue to grow as a player.”
Other candidates with retail connections who received money from the industry include Senate Republican candidate Michael Enzi of Wyoming; Rep. Jim Lightfoot, an Iowa Republican running for the Senate, and Senate Republican candidate Guy Millner of Georgia. Enzi owns two shoe stores, NZ Shoes, in Gillette and Sheridan, Wyo.; Lightfoot operates a lingerie shop, The Merry Widow, in Shenandoah, Iowa., and Millner has a temporary and staffing firm in Atlanta, Norrell Co.
Penney’s political action fund was by far the largest spender among this retail group on Tuesday’s election, having spent $194,700 on candidates through mid-October, according to the FEC. Of that, $169,100 went to Republicans and $25,600 went to Democrats. Wal-Mart’s pac came in second with $109,600 in political contributions, of which just $1,000 went to Democrats. May Department Stores spent $109,250 on its preferred candidates and gave $97,250 to Republicans and $12,000 to Democrats.
The Limited’s pac gave $97,500 in political contributions, of which $90,000 went to GOP candidates and $7,500 went to Democrats. Montgomery Ward’s pac was next in the rankings with $86,250, of which $77,000 went to Republicans and $9,250 to Democrats.
Dayton Hudson’s pac followed with $67,900 in political spending, of which $50,100 went to Republicans and $17,800 went to Democrats. The NRF spent $58,393, of which $51,347 was for Republicans and $7,046 for Democrats.
Following NRF was Spiegel, with $37,500 in political gifts, of which $31,500 went to Republicans and $6,000 to Democrats. Kmart gave $14,250 to politicians, of which just $1,500 went to Democrats.
The Democrats who received money from these retailers were avowed free traders or influential leaders of moderate groups within the Democratic party. For instance, Rep. Bob Matsui (D., Calif.), who would be chairman of the House Trade Subcommittee if Democrats take charge and who was the Clinton administration’s vote-getter on the North American Free Trade Agreement, received $1,000 from The Limited, $1,000 from NRF and $2,600 from Penney’s.
Sen. Max Baucus (D., Mont.), the former chairman of the Senate Trade Subcommittee who’s locked in a tough reelection matchup, received $3,000 from The Limited, $2,286 from NRF, $3,000 from Dayton Hudson, $3,000 from Penney’s, $2,000 from May Department Stores and $1,000 from Montgomery Ward.
Rep. Charles Stenholm (D., Tex.,), a leader of a group of moderate Democrats that controls a sizable voting bloc, received $500 from The Limited, $1,760 from NRF, $1,000 from May Department Stores, $1,000 from Montgomery Ward and $500 from Spiegel.
Some Republican candidates who received large contributions from the industry include Sen. Robert Bennett of Utah; Sen. Larry Craig of Idaho; Sen. Phil Gramm of Texas; Sen. Larry Pressler of South Dakota; House Majority Leader Richard Armey of Texas; House whip Tom Delay of Texas; House Speaker Newt Gingrich; House Trade Subcommittee chairman Phil Crane of Illinois; Senate Banking Committee chairman Alfonse D’Amato of New York; Rep. Dick Zimmer, who is running for the Senate in New Jersey, and William Weld who is running for the Senate in Massachusetts.
Among the contributions, Gingrich received $2,500 from The Limited, $1,000 from NRF and $8,000 from J.C. Penney; Crane got $6,000 from The Limited, $829 from NRF, $1,500 from Dayton Hudson, $2,000 from Penney’s, $1,000 from Kmart, $1,500 from May Co., $2,000 from Montgomery Ward and $4,500 from Spiegel.

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