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Sunday, June 30, 2013

Charity and Influence

Our chapter on interest groups explains that corporations gain influence not only through direct lobbying and campaign contributions but also through donations to politicians' favored causes.  The Sacramento Bee offers an example:
Over the past 18 months, retail giant Wal-Mart and a charity funded by the company's founding family have poured contributions into nonprofit organizations affiliated with Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and Councilman Jay Schenirer at unprecedented levels.

The Sacramento City Council has at the same time been weighing whether to relax restrictions on big-box stores, a move that would greatly benefit retail chains such as Wal-Mart. Schenirer solicited the contributions even as he backed the big-box changes, which are expected to be adopted by the council next month. Johnson has stayed silent but is considered pro-business and a likely yes vote.

The Wal-Mart donations are part of a wave of charitable contributions, known as "behests," made to causes championed by members of the City Council. Not long ago, these donations were relatively modest, but they have jumped since Johnson's election in 2008.