Black Friday politics: Do some stores lean Democratic or Republican?

Black Friday is upon us, which means a break from politics, right? Nope. DC Decoder offers you a by-the-numbers look at how some top holiday retailers spend their money politically.

John Minchillo/AP
Shoppers wait in a checkout line in the Times Square Toys R Us store after doors were opened to the public at 8 p.m. on Thursday in New York.

Black Friday: It’s a day in which most American citizens put aside politics in pursuit of shopping bargains. But in Washington we can sort almost anything in the US in terms of partisan proclivity, and temples of commerce are no exception. Want to know whether the big box store where you’re waiting in line leans Democratic or Republican?  The folks at the invaluable Center for Responsive Politics have compiled a handy guide based on campaign contributions.

Toys R Us, for instance, seems a solidly blue store. Self-identified employees of the store gave $39,000 to political candidates in the 2012 election cycle, and $36,000 of that went to Democrats.

Dig into the numbers though, and you’ll see that Toys R Us is not so much Democratic as Klobucharian. All that $36,000 went to one candidate, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D) of Minnesota. (That’s kind of odd, isn’t it? The retailer’s corporate headquarters are in New Jersey.) Other than that, Mitt Romney got $1,750 from Toys R Us workers. President Obama got zilch, according to CRP’s Open Secrets blog.

Macy’s employees, on the other hand, were big Obama fans. They donated $28,870 to the president’s reelection campaign, as opposed to $16,390 to GOP nominee Mr. Romney. This Democratic lean was counterbalanced to a certain extent by the store’s corporate political action committee, however. (Toys R Us doesn’t appear to have a central PAC.) Macy’s PAC gave $12,000 to Republicans, and $4,000 to Democrats.

Best Buy seems more of a red retailer. Both it s employees and the company’s PAC had a slight preference for Republicans, according to CRP. Store employees gave $17,662 to Democrats and $22,419 to the GOP, for instance.

But there’s Senator Klobuchar again – she’s the individual candidate to whom Best Buy-related entities donated the most. Yes, she’s chairperson of a Senate Commerce subcommittee on competitiveness, so that might have something to do with it. Maybe the money comes due to her political affiliation with Minnesota’s Gov. Mark Dayton? Governor Dayton is the scion of the Dayton retail empire, which among other things founded Target.

Hmm, we see that Target leaned GOP as well, so maybe that theory isn’t right. Of the store’s $483,777 in individual and PAC contributions, the majority went to the right side of the aisle, according to Open Secrets. And the top recipient is not Sen. Klobuchar, but Rep. Eric Paulsen – a Twin Cities Republican.

Then there’s Wal-Mart. Sam Walton’s empire has a major presence in politics compared with its big box brethren. Its employees and PAC gave $2.7 million to candidates in the 2012 cycle.

Employee donations skewed Republican – which might not be surprising, since Wal-Mart is a big employer in the exurban/rural areas where Romney ran strongly. The firm’s PAC gave roughly equal amounts to candidates of both parties, however. That might be because Wal-Mart lobbies hard in Washington and needs relationships on both sides of the aisle.

In fact, Wal-Mart has spent more than $12 million on lobbyists in the past two years. It has its own Washington office, with 15 employees, and pays hundreds of thousands of dollars in retainers to such top outside lobby firms as Patton Boggs and the Podesta Group.

The firm’s No. 1 issue is sales taxes – specifically, getting states to slap sales taxes on web retail. Rep. Steven Womack (R) of Arkansas, whose district includes Wal-Mart’s Bentonville headquarters, has long pushed national legislation that would force out-of-state online retailers to collect sales tax. He’s one of the top recipients of Wal-Mart campaign contributions.

“The traditional brick and mortar retailer is not asking for special treatment. They know they have to compete against a number of consumer criterion. What they don’t want – and should not compete against – is a disadvantage based on a tax loophole,” said Congressman Womack earlier this year during a Judiciary Committee hearing on the issue.

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