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The Worst of the One Percent?
Brave New Films, the film studio that produced the ground-breaking documentary, “Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price,” is holding an online vote to pick the “worst of the 1%.” They’re looking for the person who is doing the most with their wealth to exploit the rest of the country – and to privatize public services and public trust resources.
Walmart Watch is urging people to vote for Rob Walton, chairman of Walmart and an heir to the Walton’s family fortune, as the worst of the one percenters. Walmart Watch is an organization that “seeks to hold Walmart fully accountable for its impact on communities, the American workforce, the retail sector, the environment and the nation’s economy.”
I also strongly urge everybody to vote for Rob Walton as “worst of the 1%” for his efforts to crush labor and human rights and drive local “mom and pop” operations out of business, as well for funding corporate environmental NGO efforts to privatize the oceans by promoting “catch shares” programs and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s privately funded Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative.
To vote, go to: http://www.bravenewfoundation.org/dirty-thirty/all/rob-walton.
“When it comes to the 1%, Rob Walton and the Walton family are it,” according to Walmart Watch. “The Walton family has amassed more than $93 billion in wealth, making them the richest family in the country.”
“The Waltons inherited that wealth, much of it was created by paying many workers at poverty-level wages, offering poor benefits, and lowering conditions in the supply chain by demanding ever-lower prices. Walmart’s trade deficit with China alone eliminated hundreds of thousands of US manufacturing jobs,” the group ntoed.
Rob Walton himself has an overall estimated worth of $21 billion running the world’s largest private employer. It is estimated now that 1.4 million people work for Walmart or 1 out of every 222 people in the U.S.
“The dividends of the Walmart stock the Waltons own alone could go a long way toward making Walmart jobs good, living wage jobs. Instead he chooses to keep the average employee below the family poverty line and cut health benefits for hundreds of thousands employees,” the group added.
The Waltons have used the Walton Family Foundation to advance an extreme anti-worker and anti-human rights agenda. In the last five years, the Walton Family Foundation (where Rob sits on the board) has given money to the Heritage Foundation, the National Right to Work Foundation and other groups that advance the agenda of Wall Street banksters and other corporate operatives who have looted the economy.
Walmart Watch stated, “In 2010, the Walton Family Foundation spent more than $157 million to support the so-called school choice movement. This movement generally seeks to divert money from public schools to private schools through policies such as vouchers and charter schools. These donations make the Walton Family Foundation one of the largest funders of efforts to undermine public education.”
Wal-Mart gives $36 million to ocean privatization efforts
In addition to anti-worker and school privatization campaigns, the corporate giant also dumps millions into “environmental” programs to greenwash the privatization of public trust resources.
The Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA), a national grassroots recreational fishing organization, in August slammed the Walton Family Foundation’s contribution of $36 million to ocean privatization efforts through “catch shares” programs and the creation of so-called “marine protected areas.”
“Wal-Mart announced this week its efforts to help fund the demise of both the recreational and commercial fishing industry while also working to ensure that the next generation of sportsmen will have less access to coastal fish stocks than at any point in U.S. history,” according to a news release from RFA.
In a August 16th news release from Wal-Mart corporate headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas, the Walton Family Foundation announced “investments” totaling more than $71.8 million awarded to various “environmental” initiatives in 2010. The foundation handed over $36 million alone to Marine Conservation grantees including Ocean Conservancy, Conservation International Foundation, Marine Stewardship Council, World Wildlife Fund and Environmental Defense Fund (EDF).
The five top grantees were: Conservation International, $18,640,917; the Nature Conservancy,$9,305,449; Environmental Defense Fund $7,086,054; the Marine Stewardship Council, $4,500,000; and the Ocean Conservancy, $3,757,768.
Critics of Wal-Mart, the largest retailer in the world, have blasted the company for decades for being able to sell its products at cheap prices only by employing sweatshops, undercutting competitors, wielding its market power to cripple both competitors and suppliers, and flouting national and international health, safety, labor, and environmental standards. Anti-corporate globalization opponents have long regarded Wal-Mart as a virtual “Darth Vader” of retailers, as documented in the film, “The High Price of Low Cost.”
Greenwashing Wal-Mart’s Image
However, in 2006 the retail giant hired Adam Werbach former Sierra Club president to “polish” its image. This latest Wal-Mart release is apparently part of a carefully orchestrated campaign to greenwash its image – and extend control over public trust resources.
According to the release, the Walton Family Foundation “focuses on globally important marine areas and works with grantees and other partners to create networks of effectively managed protected areas that conserve key biological features, and ensure the sustainable utilization of marine resources – especially fisheries – in a way that benefits both nature and people.”
“We focus our work in the United States’ primary river systems and in some of the world’s most ecologically significant marine areas,” said Scott Burns, director of the foundation’s Environment Focus Area and the former director of marine conservation at the World Wildlife Fund. “It’s important to us to protect and conserve natural resources while also recognizing the roles these waters play in the livelihoods of those who live nearby.”
The RFA countered that these specially managed areas of coastal waters are also referred to as “marine protected areas” or “marine reserves,” and the end result is denied angler access, of little or no benefit to the very people whom Wal-Mart claims to benefit.
Marine protected areas without real protection
“A quick visit to the Ocean Conservancy website should be telling enough for anglers interested in learning where Wal-Mart’s profits are being spent,” said RFA executive director Jim Donofrio. “These folks are pushing hard to complete California’s network of exclusionary zones throughout the entire length of coastline, and they’ve made it very clear that they would like to see the West Coast version of the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) extended into other coastal U.S. waters.”
Grassroots environmentalists, fishermen, members of Indian Tribes, civil liberties activists and environmental justice advocates have criticized Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative, privately funded by the shadowy Resources Legacy Fund Foundation, for its numerous conflicts of interest and the violation of numerous state, federal and international laws.
The so-called “marine protected areas” established under the MLPA Initiative fail to protect the ocean from oil drilling and spills, water pollution, wave and wind energy projects, military testing, corporate aquaculture, habitat destruction and all other human impacts upon the ocean other than fishing and gathering. In an extreme case of corporate greenwashing, Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the president of the Western States Petroleum Association, served as chair of the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force that created these questionable “marine protected areas” on the Southern California coast. She also served on the task forces for the North Central and North Central Coasts.
When not chairing or serving on these rigged panels, Reheis-Boyd has been busy lobbying for new oil drillling off the California coast, tar sands drillling in Canada, and for the weakening of environmental regulations throughout the West.
The Walton Family Foundation release also said that so-called “marine protected areas” being promoted with the foundation’s money include those in Indonesia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Panama, the Gulf of California and the Gulf of Mexico.
“Here’s an organization which has publicly opposed creation of artificial reefs used by Wal-Mart’s tackle buyers, in some cases openly advocating for their removal, yet the Walton family is handing over tons of money for support,” Donofrio said of Ocean Conservancy in particular.
Jack Sobel, a senior scientist for the Ocean Conservancy, has said “There’s little evidence that artificial reefs have a net benefit,” citing concerns such as toxicity, damage to ecosystems and concentrating fish into one place (worsening overfishing).
Wal-Mart boycott follows Safeway boycott
“Shopping for fishing equipment at Wal-Mart is contributing directly to the demise of our sport, it’s supporting lost fishing opportunities and decreased coastal access for all Americans,” Donofrio said. “I hope all RFA members across the country will remember that when it’s time to gear up, but I would also wonder if perhaps our industry can help spread the message and support our local tackle shops by also pulling product off Wal-Mart’s shelves.”
RFA in April 2011 announced its support of a national boycott of the Safeway Supermarket chain, including Genuardi’s in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware, because of that corporation’s support for California’s widely-contested MLPA initiative.
“Apparently Safeway has gotten some bad advice from the people in the ocean protection racket, a community to which the California-based mega-corporation is now donating profits,” said Jim Martin, West Coast Regional Director of the RFA. “Safeway says it is supporting groups that make a difference like the Food Marketing Institute’s Sustainable Seafood Working Group, the Conservation Alliance for Seafood Solutions and the World Wildlife Fund’s Aquaculture Dialogues, but it’s little more than corporate greenwashing.”
RFA believes it’s time that Wal-Mart was added to the angler boycott list as well.
“The Walton family created this huge corporate entity which has threatened the vibrancy of our local retail outlets, and now they’re essentially doing the same thing with our fishing communities,” Donofrio said.
“Much like Safeway has done with their financial investment in the environmental business community, Wal-Mart apparently prefers customers buy farm-raised fish and seafood caught by foreign countries outside of U.S. waters, while denying individual anglers the ability to head down to the ocean to score a few fish for their own table,” noted Donofrio.
Wal-Mart pushes catch shares program
The Walton Family Foundation is also working “to create economic incentives for ocean conservation,” while candidly pledging their support for “projects that reverse the incentives to fish unsustainably that exist in ‘open access fisheries’ by creating catch share programs,” according to the official news release.
A broad coalition of commercial and recreational fishing, consumer and environmental groups is opposing the catch shares programs being pushed by NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco, a former vice-chair of the Board of Directors of Environmental Defense, because these programs amount to the privatization of public trust resources by concentrating fisheries in the hands of a few corporate hands. Wherever catch shares have been introduced, local fishing communities, fish populations and the environment have been devastated.
“A catch share, also known as an individual fishing quota, is a transferable voucher that gives individuals or businesses the ability to access a fixed percentage of the total authorized catch of a particular species,” according to Food and Water Watch. “Fishery management systems based on catch shares turn a public resource into private property and have lead to socioeconomic and environmental problems. Contrary to arguments by catch share proponents – namely large commercial fishing interests – this management system has exacerbated unsustainable fishing practices.”
Donofrio emphasized, “Our local outfitters and tackle shops along the coast have had to face an immense challenge by going up against Wal-Mart’s purchasing power during the last decade, but now that the Walton family is so up front about their opposition to open access fisheries, it’s hard for me to believe that any sportsmen would ever be interested in shopping there again.”
“California anglers have been outraged to learn that money they spend at a Safeway grocery store might end up in the hands of anti-fishing groups like the EDF and the Ocean Conservancy, so I hope more anglers will join the national boycott by sending a message to Wal-Mart as well as Safeway,” Martin added.
Sam and Helen Walton launched their “modest retail business in 1962″ with guiding principle of helping “increase opportunity and improve the lives of others along the way,” according to the Walton Family Foundation website. It is that principle the foundation says, that makes them “more focused than ever on sustaining the Walton’s timeless small-town values and deep commitment to making life better for individuals and communities alike.”
RFA said grassroots efforts to combat the corporate anti-fishing, pro-privatization agenda are more than just an uphill climb.
“The EDF catch share coffers are already filled to the top, while Pew Charitable Trusts has billions in reserve,” Donofrio said. “The individual anglers and local business owners are being denied opportunity, and I hope the federal trade representatives are willing to get onboard with their support of real small-town values.” He emphasized that the Ocean Conservancy and EDF combined received more than $10 million in Walton Family Foundation grants in 2010.
EDF: RFA’s contention is ‘just wrong’
The EDF public relations department was quick to respond in defense of their $7,086,054 Walton Family Foundation donation.
Tom Lalley, communications director for the Oceans Program of the Environmental Defense Fund, claimed, “RFA’s contention that the contribution in question was made by Wal-Mart is just wrong.”
“The contribution was made by the Walton Family Fund and not Wal-Mart,” Lalley told http://www.fishnewseu.com. “These are two different entities. There is no connection between the two other than the fact that the fund’s money comes from private holdings of the same Waltons who started and managed Wal-Mart, but none of the money comes from the existing company. So it was the family, and specifically the family’s foundation, that made a contribution for sustainable fishing and ocean conservation, and not the store.”
According to RFA managing director Jim Hutchinson, Jr., the marketing executives at EDF are “some of the best in the ‘astroturfing’ business,” but he calls Lalley’s claims “almost comical.”
“So I leave you a $1,000 bill in the cereal aisle at Wal-Mart, tucked under a box of sugar coated corn flakes, does that mean that Wal-Mart actually gave you the $1,000, or maybe EDF would argue it was really a contribution from Tony the Tiger himself,” Hutchinson laughed.
“The heirs to the corporate fortune have spent two decades successfully building back their stake in this publicly held company to the point they now own over 50% of the Wal-Mart operation. The Walton Family Foundation is Wal-Mart, and the Walton family itself is making billions in our local communities, so to say that the two are separate entities is simply ridiculous. Actually expecting us to believe that statement is borderline insanity,” Hutchinson emphasized.
Commercial fishermen join recreational anglers in denouncing Wal-Mart’s support of privatization
Zeke Grader, executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations (PCFFA), praised the RFA for criticizing Wal-Mart’s contributions to ocean privatization efforts and welcomed the organization’s call for a Wal-Mart boycott.
“Wa-Mart is wrong on this issue, just as it has been in the past on labor and community issues,” said Grader. “The privatization of public trust resources is the antithesis of conservation.”
“I’ve been boycotting Wal-Mart for decades and it’s absolutely great that recreational and commercial fishermen are together on this,” noted Grader.
It is worth noting that Conservation International and the Nature Conservancy, the two top recipients of Walton Family Foundation funds, are known throughout the world for their top-down “environmental” programs that run roughshod over local communities to achieve their corporate greenwashing goals.
Corporate environmental NGO ‘leaders’ support peripheral canal
The Nature Conservancy in California is a strong backer of state and federal plans to build a peripheral canal or tunnel to export more Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta water to corporate agribusiness and southern California water agencies. Peripheral canal opponents, including recreational anglers, commercial fishermen, Delta residents, family farmers and California Indian Tribes, believe the construction of the canal would result in the extinction of Central Valley steelhead, Sacramento River chinook salmon, Delta smelt, longfin smelt and other imperiled fish populations.
The Walton Family Foundation’s contribution to Conservation International is no surprise, since Rob Walton is chairman of the executive committee of Conservation International’s Board of Directors (http://www.conservation.org/about/team/bod).
Also serving on the Board of Conservation International is Stewart A. Resnick, Chairman of the Board of Roll International Corporation, who is the largest tree fruit grower in the world and one of the biggest recipients of subsidized water from the imperiled California Delta. While making a tidy profit from selling his subsidized water back to the public, Resnick has waged a relentless campaign to divert more water from the Delta through the peripheral canal and has done everything in his power to eviscerate Endangered Species Act protections for Central Valley steelhead, Sacramento River chinook salmon, Delta smelt and other listed species.
Resnick’s Coalition for a Sustainable Delta, an agribusiness “Astroturf” group, has also spent a great deal of effort in litigation attempting to eradicate striped bass from the Bay-Delta Estuary by falsely claiming that “striped bass,” rather than water exports, are the cause of Delta smelt and salmon declines. For more information, go to: http://blogs.alternet.org/danbacher/2011/11/09/public-voices-100-percent-opposition-to-striped-bass-reduction-plan.
MLPA Initiative Background:
The Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) is a law, signed by Governor Gray Davis in 1999, designed to create a network of marine protected areas off the California Coast. However, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2004 created the privately-funded MLPA “Initiative” to “implement” the law, effectively eviscerating the MLPA.
The “marine protected areas” created under the MLPA Initiative fail to protect the ocean from oil spills and drilling, water pollution, military testing, wave and wind energy projects, corporate aquaculture and all other uses of the ocean other than fishing and gathering.
The MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Forces that oversaw the implementation of “marine protected areas” included a big oil lobbyist, marina developer, real estate executive and other individuals with numerous conflicts of interest. Catherine Reheis Boyd, the president of the Western States Petroleum Association who is pushing for new oil drilling off the California coast, served as the chair of the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force for the South Coast.
The MLPA Initiative operates through a controversial private/public “partnership funded by the shadowy Resources Legacy Fund Foundation. The Schwarzenegger administration authorized the implementation of marine protected areas under the initiative through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the foundation and the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG).
Dan Bacher can be reached at: Danielbacher@fishsniffer.com