Home Depot Comes to Butte–With Its Begging Bowl

Out on Harrison Avenue in Butte, Montana there are a couple of cemeteries with an airport between them. In one of these Frank Little, the murdered wobbly guy, is buried.

It’s changed quite a bit since I was a kid when there wasn’t much out here. Sully’s ancient truck stop and Ham’s Motor Court, Cote’s old road house, a drive-in theatre called the Motor-Vu, the Peris road house, and of course, Calla Shea. who had a clip joint with slots, shaved dice along with strippers and hookers for the suckers. Some of the wise guys around town at the time said a rube could be served a mickey in the dive if his wallet justified a little spike in his drink. The place was called the Paddock when it was in its glory but I was too young to get in and by the time I was old enough to get in, it was gone and today we find a big Town Pump in its place. I also remember a dog track and a motor speedway called the Butana and finally in the late 1950’s a bowling alley.

But that was yesterday and now there is a giant Wal-Mart right across the street from where the IWW’ s Frank Little is buried, an irony, the IWW and Wal-Mart, that never escapes me. North of the cemetery much of the ground is still vacant but not for long as we are going to get a “union free” Atlanta, Georgia based Home Depot box store next to Frank Little and all the dead miners from the Speculator. Not only that, Home Depot is coming to town begging and they already have the tin cup out.

You see there is a hole in the gound on the Home Depot property next to the cemetery where Frank Little and a lot of dead Butte union miners from the Speculator – Granite Mountain disaster are buried under a monument erected in 1917..

And the hole needs a patch before Home Deport can build a its 2,165th box store and parking lot on this spot. And that patch job is going to cost $2 million and Home Depot wants Butte-Silver Bow County to split the cost with them and it looks like a done deal..

So I looked to see what Home Depot was capped at on the New York Stock Exchange and they tell me its $75,630 million dollars. So then I think What if a guy come up to you and asked you for a buck even though he had $75,630 in his wallet. Now you might think that is a little strange.

But I guess that is the way they do things at Home Depot and from what I have been finding out, at the top of the Home Depot totem pole, there are some life styles that burn up a lot of money.

Now Home Depot had a CEO who recently moved on to Chrysler. His name is Robert Nardelli and he was hired by co-founders Bernie Marcus and Arthur Blank in 2000 and a good deal that was for the new CEO whose annual pay at Home Depot was $26 million plus perks..And when Nardelli left in January after five years on the job, his going away package was – now get this – $210 million.

Then there is co-founder Arthur Blank who shelled out $545 million for the Atlanta Falcons football team in 2001. And the other co-founder, Bernie Marcus is pumping $200 million into a downtown Atlanta Aquarium to further promote Bernie’s benevolent image..

And besides the life styles there are the politics. And people in the Democratic stronghold of Butte might be interested in that union hating Home Depot is part and parcel of the Republican Party money machine.

From my inquiry I can see that the most glorious event in the history of Home Depot took place in Atlanta on a Sunday afternoon in May, 2004. In his private gym, CEO Nardelli, along with the two Home Depot co-founders, hosted a very pricey dinner for George Bush with 300 chosen guests.The dinner itself cost $15,000 a plate and seats at Bush’s table went for an additional $50,000 a couple.The three hour gathering earned the Bush campaign a “phenomenal” $3.4 million. The state GOP chairman called it “the largest private fund-raiser in the history of the state of Georgia.”

Now to add to the Republican flavor here I will mention that former Home Depot CEO Nordelli, who was just appointed CEO at Chrysler, is one more example of how the Corporate Republican good old boy network, which has all but ruined the country, really works.

You see Chrysler has been recently taken over by a hedge fund outfit called Cerberus Capital Management. John Snow, formerly Bush’s treasury secretary is CEO there. And Snow is the guy who led the country into record deficits while pushing for more tax cuts

Better yet, former Vice-President Dan Quayle, a certified neo-conservative war monger, is Cerberus’ chairman of global investments. I am not kidding, the same Dan Quayle of potato spelling fame has a real hiigh-profile job at the place and I swear I am not making up a tale..Also neo-con royalty Donald Rumsfeld is an investor in Cerberus which requires a $1 million buy in.

And there’s more. The current CEO at Home Depot,.Francis Blake, was formerly the deputy energy secretary in Bush’s first term. And remember Tom Ridge the Homeland Security guy who specialized in color coded alerts.. After leaving Homeland Security, Ridge was appointed to the board of directors at Home Depot.

And we can’t forget Ashley’s Story which was part of the big Republican TV spending spree during the last three weeks of the 2004 campaign. And Ashley’s Story” turned out to be the most expensive TV ad buy of the campaign, which blanketed nine key states — Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, Iowa, New Mexico, Nevada, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Missouri. Many give it credit for Bush’s win over John Kerry.

The ad featured Ashley Faulkner, 11, whose mother had been killed in the attack on the World Trade Center, describing her meeting with a caring and compassionate Bush. Home Depot’s Bernie Marcus was given a preview showing and Bernie was so touched he chipped in a $million.

Another interest of Bernie’s is something called the American Justice Partnership of which he is listed as a co-founder. This group; will take a position and fund favored candidates in all 50 state attorney general races. According to their websiite. the goal is to stop abuses of the legal system at the state level and to lobby for tort reform

Other participants here are the National Association of Manufacturers, the Chamber of Commerce along with Altria, the parent company of the cigarette maker Phillip Morris.

Now I read in Bloomberg that “Home Depot Inc. and Altria Group Inc., stung by the regulatory fervor of Eliot Spitzer and other state attorneys general, are among companies spending millions of dollars to support business-friendly candidates in coming elections.”

And the key words above are “Eliot Spritzer,” a name that seems to make Home Depot’s Bernie Marcus’s blood boil. “The business community has woken up to “Spitzerism,” and they’re fighting back,” is the word from Bernie on the dangers of the likes of Eliot Spritzer.

Then there is the next president and it looks like Home Depot is covering both sides as far as the Republican front runners go. Take February, when Arthur Blank hosted an Atlanta fundraiser for Mitt Rommeny at $1000 a ticket

Or April, when Bernie Marcus held an Atlanta fundraiser for Rudy Giuliani at his palace. Bernie has close ties to Israel and Rudy played to the house at this event with fierce words, blasting Democrats as being “highly irresponsible” for including a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq in their funding bill for the war.

And maybe no better example of Bernie’s ability as a money raiser for Republicans came in March of 2006 when he held an Atlanta fundraiser for Georgia Lt. Governor candidate Ralph Reed (remember him?) which raised $585,000.and is considered the state record for a single fundraiser in a statewide race. Unfortunately the money didn’t do Ralph much good and he lost badly despite Bernie’s efforts.

So if you want to support the vast Republican right-wing conspiracy and you don’t have any use for labor unions and live in the Butte, Montana area you can show your true colors by simply shopping at Home Depot if everything goes as planned. And don’t forget to drop your spare change in the little tin cup. These Home Depot high rollers could certainly use it.

JACKIE CORR lives in Butte, Montana. He can be reached at: jcorr@bigskyhsd.com