Walmart Accused of Using Charity for Its Own Gain
Community groups allege pay to play practices
By Brownie Marie,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 16, 2015 1:05 PM CDT
FILE - In this May 9, 2013 file photo, a worker pushes shopping carts in front of a Walmart store in La Habra, Calif. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is expected to report quarterly results on Thursday, May 15,...   (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

(Newser) – The war between community organizations and Walmart rages on. More than a dozen groups from across the country filed a complaint with the IRS against the retail giant's charitable arm yesterday, alleging that the Walmart Foundation is under the company's thumb and has repeatedly violated its tax-exempt status, according to the New York Times. Specifically, the charity is accused of funneling its donations to causes in cities where the company sought to expand in hopes of eroding opposition there, "ultimately providing Walmart more than an incidental benefit." The complaint gives this example: Walmart donations to LA groups were only $200,000 in 2008 and 2009, but rose to $1.4 million when the company planned to open a new store in the area in 2011. The store opened in 2013, and donations dropped down to $230,000.

A Walmart spokesperson says the Foundation "takes the Internal Revenue Code and regulations very seriously and the allegations made have no merit," per a Washington Post report. "It’s unfortunate to see criticism of the Foundation’s charitable giving," the spokesperson adds. That giving included $1.4 billion during the last fiscal year. But the director of one group that signed the complaint characterizes the donations as a "smoke and mirrors campaign." The head of New York Communities for Change, which also joined the complaint, tells the Times, "I think what we say is that they bought people’s support. It is direct lobbying, what they were doing, advocating on behalf of Walmart’s business interests."