Jim C. Walton is heir to the Walmart fortune. He is also CEO and chairman of Arvest Bank, as well as chair of The Community Publishers, Inc.
The Waltons are the richest non-royal family in the world and make millions of dollars in US campaign contributions each year. Older generation Waltons like Jim are well documented Republican contributors; however, this legacy may not be steadfast due to increasingly varied contributions by his family.
The Waltons are bridging a divide between the older generation of habitual Republican contributors and the younger generation, who is trending toward Democrat contributions.
In the past, the Waltons could be counted on to contribute almost exclusively to Republican campaigns, however, as of late, these contributions are beginning to trend blue. In order to understand this generational struggle, one must understand the dynamics of the Walton family.
Sam Walton is the founder of Wal-Mart; he and his wife, Helen Walton would go on to have four children. Alice, Jim, and Samuel Walton are the couple’s three surviving children.
This particular group of voters is sometimes referred to as the Baby Boomers. When discussing voter trends, Boomers are commonly referred to as ‘the older generation’.
Over the years, their political contributions have been well recorded and monitored, which helps give a sense of security in future behaviors. For instance, Jim is a prominent member of the Republican Party of Arkansas; in addition to this, he is on the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which aims to elect Republicans to the Senate.
James, Thomas, Steuart, Alice, Lukas, Ben, Carrie, and Sam Walton are the grandchildren of Sam Walton. This group is primarily in their thirties and forties, which makes them Millennials or Generation Xers; therefore, they are regarded as ‘the younger generation’ in reference to voting.
Jim Walton is aligned with an extreme right wing agenda. He has given $636,000 in federal elections since the beginning of the 2008 election cycle, 98% of this went to Republicans or Republican-affiliated groups.
He has a track record of supporting an agenda that is anti-LGBT, anti-civil rights, and anti-public education. In 2012, 72 percent of election contributions from the Walton Family Foundation supported Republican candidates and committees.
In the 2016 election, the same family members gave more than 60 percent of their contributions to Democratic candidates and committees.
A compilation of data by HistPhil.org shows a general trend in contributions in relation to time. When the younger generation’s donations are included, the family was giving almost as much to Democrats as to Republicans from 2016 to 2018.
In a study by the Education Next Organization, the line between Republican and Democrat support is again blurred. This time, all contributions from grantees and organizations employed by the Waltons were taken into account.
“Whether measured in contributions or funds contributed, staff at grantees of the “very conservative” Walton Foundation clearly favor Democratic candidates over Republican ones by a margin of somewhere between 3-to-1 and 7-to-1.”
These trends are concerning to many Republicans, because if they continue in this manner, a substantial amount of contribution money will be lost to Democratic causes and campaigns.
The Lincoln Project
Because the younger generation of Waltons are Generation-Xers and Millennials, some attribute the Walton’s varied trends to the changing tides in younger voters. PEW Research Center’s 2017 study on voting trends among generational lines traces a larger than ever ideological gap between younger generations and their predecessors.
These changing tides are perhaps best illustrated in the contributions of Christy Walton, widow of John Walton. She is one of the biggest donors to anti-Trump Republican group, The Lincoln Project.
Her contributions have shown a break from a blindly-republican perspective. In addition to this, she has also donated to Democratic presidential candidates Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper.
As of late, even older Waltons have been varied when it comes to contributions as well. Alice Walton gave generously to the Clinton campaign in 2015 and 2016.
The Walton Legacy
While older generation voters such as Jim Walton have a substantiated history of right-wing voting and contributing, the legacy of Walton contributions is beginning to look like a mixed bag.