Facing pressure from Walmart opponents, the host committee for the Democratic National Convention is returning $50,000 worth of gift cards donated to the convention cause by the megaretailer, a Walmart spokeswoman and a convention official confirmed to The Huffington Post on Monday.
The Democratic National Committee has maintained a rule barring corporate cash donations for the Charlotte festivities slated for September, so Democrats accepted the gift cards as an in-kind donation to help cover convention costs. The United Food and Commercial Workers union, a loud critic of Walmart, criticized convention organizers for accepting the cards, arguing that the world's largest private employer doesn't represent the party's values.
Brooke Buchanan, a Walmart spokeswoman, said that the gift cards will end up going to the needy.
"We plan to donate the gift cards to a local food bank in Charlotte, as part of our $2 billion dollar anti hunger effort," Buchanan said in an email. "Walmart has a long history of supporting elected officials and political parties on both sides of the aisle and will continue to have a presence at both Democratic and Republican conventions."
Recent reports have suggested that the convention committee itself is a little needy at the moment. The rule barring corporate cash donations has apparently made it difficult to raise the necessary funds for the convention. According to reports, organizers have asked unions to kick in money to help fill the funding shortfall, with several unions rebuffing the requests and choosing to spend their political money elsewhere.
Walmart recently suffered a black eye when The New York Times published an investigation alleging the company had bribed government officials in Mexico as it expanded south of the border several years ago. The public-relations blowback has given fodder to Walmart critics as it tries to open new stores in American cities and abroad.
Timothy Schlittner, a spokesman for the UFCW, praised the convention host committee's decision to return the gift cards to Walmart.
"It's something we had urged," Schlittner said. "We just think Walmart has a set of values that are different from the Democratic Party's."