Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Who Is Really Behind the Internet Sales Tax?

It's big box operators, who don't like the internet competition. OpenSecretsBlog reports:
Supporters of the proposed Internet sales tax like to make it sound as though they just care about the little guy, the shopkeeper still intrepid enough to keep the doors open at her bricks-and-mortar store on Main Street. And in fact, the matching bills in the House and Senate -- which would require online retailers to collect sales tax on all transactions and hand the money over to state and local governments -- are called the Marketplace Fairness Act.

But, like many things in Washington, especially those that suddenly start to move through Congress quickly, very big business has thrown its weight behind the proposal[...]

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) told the Times he was motivated to support the Internet sales tax in part by the owners of a local bridal shop, who complained to him that many customers browse in the store, then buy online for a better deal.

“They use the parking lot. They use the sidewalk. They benefit from police protection, and then the local merchant who pays for all of that doesn’t get the sale,” he told the Times. 

Blunt didn't tell the Times that three other supporters of the Internet sales tax with much deeper pockets than the bridal shop -- PACs run by Home Depot, Walmart and Target -- each gave $5,000 to his leadership PAC, Rely On Your Beliefs, earlier this year. And Rep. Austin Scott (R-Ga.) who told the Times about a local shop in his state that lost customers looking for better deals on rifle scopes, took $5,000 from Home Depot on March 31. 

Home Depot's PAC also gave $2,500 to Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), who was quoted in the Times as saying he had "some concern about the legislation" but was more worried about "the fairness issue" for bricks-and-mortar businesses. Goodlatte also collected the same amount form Wal-Mart's PAC. 

The legislation's sponsor in the House, Rep. Steve Womack (R-Ark.) told the Times that his constituents have reminded him that Norquist didn't elect him, and "Members that come to Washington and kowtow to special interests end up contributing to this very polarized government. These are tough decisions we have to make up here."

In the first three months of 2013, Womack received $10,000 from Walmart's PAC, $2,000 from the PAC run by Best Buy and $1,000 from the PAC run by Lowe's, the home improvement big box store. All of those companies are supporters of the Internet sales tax. 

The legislation's sponsor in the Senate, Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), picked up $5,000 from Home Depot and $1,000 from Walmart's PAC. However, one of his three original co-sponsors, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), seems to have attracted the most attention from supporters of the idea. Between March 20 and March 31, according to the FEC's most recent filings, he received at least $41,000 from PACs run by supporters of the Internet sales tax:

$9,000 from Home Depot, March 31
$5,000 from AutoZone, March 31
$5,000 from the Retail Industry Leaders Association PAC, March 26
$3,500 from the PAC of lobbying firm Patton Boggs (which represents Amazon and other clients that support the proposal), March 20
$2,500 from Best Buy, March 26
$2,500 from Lowes, March 20
$2,500 from JC Penney, March 26
$2,500 from Target, March 26
$2,500 from Walmart, March 31
$2,000 from Amazon, March 26
$2,000 from Lowes, March 26
$2,000 from Safeway, March 31


  1. If they want fairness require brick and mortar retailers collect sales tax for the 6000+ jurisdictions. Require ID from purchasers, credit and debt card purchasers could have their billing address supplied with authorization. Let them be subject to audit by distant states and municipalities where they have no political influence.

  2. If the states want fairness, how about going the other way for once and remove their sales tax...and with the consumer in mind....rather than this thin veil for their never satisfied appetites for ever more revenue