Out of curiosity, I took a quick hop over to Open Secrets this morning, and took a glimpse at the companies whose employees are donating to the 2008 presidential candidates. Specifically, I was interested in Wal-Mart and Target. I wanted to see what kind of differences there were between the two discount chains, and what patterns would emerge amongst the candidates who received the mnost donations.
The following two charts show the donations:
I have to admit that I find myself confused as much as I am informed by the information about donations reflected in these charts.
Some things are clear: Both employees of Target and employees of Wal-Mart gave more to Republicans than to Democrats. Also, it seems pretty clear to me that the local history that Mike Huckabee and Hillary Clinton both have with Wal-Mart, which is based in Arkansas, drowns out financial support for other candidates that comes from some Wal-Mart employees.
The donations from Target, which is based in Minnesota, home state to none of the presidential candidates, seem to reflect a more accurate picture of who’s a frontrunner on the Republican side, with Rudolph Giuliani and Mitt Romney solidly in the lead. What’s going on over on the Democratic side, though? What has John Edwards, who is commonly seen as running a lackluster campaign with no chance of victory, done to get the bulk of money from Target employees so far? One might understand that Target employees would not donate to Hillary Clinton, who can be fairly seen as Wal-Mart’s Democratic candidate for President. Why, however, would John Edwards receive two big donations from Target executives, when Barack Obama has not? Why not give the money to Barack Obama?
Throw this wrench into your interpretation of these numbers: This year, the courts declared that issue-oriented advertisements that focus on political candidates can be run on television by corporations and other organizations without disclosure of any of the sources of the money that pays for the ads. So, these open, above-board donations for presidential candidates are probably just the tip of the funding iceberg, and may not reflect the actual shape of corporate influence upon the candidates.
That’s the clearest conclusion I can come to from looking at this information: In 2008, the public will not get a clear and complete picture of the big money deals going down behind the scenes of the presidential campaigning.
So, I could point out that Democratic candidates Joseph Biden, Chris Dodd, John Edwards and Dennis Kucinich seem to have received no support at all from Wal-Mart. The truth is, however, that I really don’t know that for sure, and I never will.
Secrets that had been opened have now been closed again.