Walmart’s political action committee donated to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s reelection campaign last month, as he geared up to fight a federal Covid-19 vaccine mandate, according to a new federal filing.
The donation came as the retail industry has expressed concerns about the mandate weighing on operations as the holiday shopping season approaches and America faces labor shortages.
The contribution also came after Abbott, a Republican who is up for reelection next year, signed a law that effectively bans abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, as well as legislation that includes voting restrictions.
Arkansas-based Walmart made the $10,000 donation, dated Sept. 29, through its “PAC for sustainable government,” according to a Federal Election Commission filing.
The mega retailer’s donation to Abbott was the biggest contribution it gave to any state or federal elected official that month. The Walmart PAC also contributed $5,000 to Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, also a Republican.
Records show Walmart has contributed to both Abbott’s and Patrick’s campaigns in the past. The company has also contributed to Democrats.
“As a company that operates in all 50 states, it is necessary for us to engage political leaders from both parties across a broad spectrum of policy matters. Our company and PAC engage in a bipartisan manner based on a range of issues that impact our associates, customers and shareholders,” a Walmart representative told CNBC.
“We have not been and will never be a single-issue contributor, and we recognize that at times elected officials will back legislation we don’t support or condone. However, it’s important that we continue to engage in the political process and make our views known to policymakers and other stakeholders.”
President Joe Biden in September announced that his administration would implement a Covid vaccine mandate that would cover private businesses with 100 or more workers. It will apply to about two-thirds of the private sector’s workforce. The administration is expected to publish the rules soon.
Abbott has led Republican efforts to battle the Covid vaccine mandate. He slammed Biden’s announcement in early September. The governor then signed an executive order this month prohibiting such mandates, including requirements by businesses in the Lone Star State.
Walmart, which is headquartered in Arkansas, had demanded that its corporate staff as well as its management-level employees be vaccinated against Covid by Oct. 4. The mandate applies to all employees who work in its home office, in addition to market, regional and divisional employees who work in multiple facilities. It does not apply to employees who work in a single location, like a store or warehouse.
The National Retail Federation, of which Walmart is a member, has pushed the administration to give companies more time to comply with the vaccine rules. The Retail Industry Leaders Association has called the standard a “colossal undertaking.”
Abbott has also faced criticism for two other bills. Prior to the Walmart contribution, Abbott signed laws aimed at restricting abortion and ballot access.
The Texas abortion law, officially known as SB 8, allows private citizens to sue people who are performing abortions in the state. It also gives private citizens the opportunity to sue anyone who assists people who receive an abortion. Biden’s Department of Justice sued the state of Texas over the law after the U.S. Supreme Court allowed it to go into effect last month.
Other companies, including Texas-based AT&T, have faced criticism for donating to state lawmakers who supported the voting and abortion laws. Democratic super PAC American Bridge and anti-Trump super PAC Lincoln Project are among AT&T’s critics.
Walmart has been under scrutiny before for its previous donations to lawmakers who voted against the certification of the 2020 election following a deadly riot on Capitol Hill on Jan.6.
The retail giant gave over $200,000 to a group of Republican lawmakers who objected to the election results, according to data compiled by CNN. The company later said that “Walmart’s political action committee is indefinitely suspending contributions to those members of Congress who voted against the lawful certification of state electoral college votes.”
The Associated Press reported that since the commitment, Walmart is among a group of company PACs that have continued to give to Republican led House and Senate committees. Those political organizations benefit Republicans who either did or did not object to the 2020 election results.