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Wal-Mart spent more than $4.8 million on Oklahoma's alcohol ballot measure

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. laid out more than $4.8 million to ensure the success of a ballot measure that allows wine sales in Oklahoma grocery stores.

The group Yes on 792 Inc., which promoted State Question 792, garnered about $5.3 million in contributions in the 2016 election — nearly all of it from Wal-Mart, campaign disclosure statements filed this week show.

In comparison, the opposition group No to SQ 792 raised $12,486 in cash and in-kind contributions.

Wal-Mart contributed $4,865,560 in cash and in-kind donations to Yes on 792, according to a report filed with the Oklahoma Ethics Commission on Tuesday. That's about 90 percent of Yes on 792's total funding.

In a statement, Wal-Mart called the campaign contributions an "investment" made to help its Oklahoma customers.

"Our customers made it clear that they wanted this choice and convenience. They confirmed that overwhelmingly at the ballot box. On their behalf, we made this investment to provide them a voice and serve them better," said Anne Hatfield, a spokeswoman for the company.

Yes on 792 spent more than $2 million on television and radio spots, as well as about $678,000 on digital media, records show. Other expenses include travel for out-of state consultants, campaign mailers and surveys.

The Retail Liquor Association of Oklahoma filed a lawsuit against the Oklahoma Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement Commission in December.

The group is seeking a court order to stop the Oklahoma ABLE Commission from implementing the many changes to state alcohol laws that are part of SQ 792. The liquor store owners initially filed the lawsuit in Oklahoma County District Court, but the case has been moved to federal court in Oklahoma City.

The liquor store owners argue in the lawsuit that SQ 792 is unconstitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees equal protection for all under the law.

The Oklahoma Attorney General's office has asked a federal judge to dismiss the lawsuit.

In a court filing, the Attorney General's office argues that the court should respect the will of Oklahoma voters, who passed SQ 792 with 65 percent of the vote in November.

"Courts will not overturn such a law unless they 'can only conclude that the people's actions were irrational,'" the Attorney General's office said in its filing.

In its response, the Retail Liquor Association argues that SQ 792 offers two separate, unfair sets of laws to govern liquor stores and grocery stores.

SQ 792 will hinder competition in Oklahoma and cause many small liquor stores to close, the Retail Liquor Association claims.

"A large percentage of local stores will be forced to close and the sale of wine and beer will become concentrated in stores like Wal-Mart and Quik Trip," the liquor store owners group argued in a court filing.

The bulk of State Question 792 is scheduled to take effect in October 2018, including wine sales and refrigerated, full-strength beer sales in grocery and convenience stores.

Related Photos
<p>Wine is on display at Byron's Liquor Warehouse in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma voters passed State Question 792 in November, allowing grocers to sell wine in 2018. [Photo by Jim Beckel, The Oklahoman]</p>

Wine is on display at Byron's Liquor Warehouse in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma voters passed State Question 792 in November, allowing grocers to sell wine in 2018. [Photo by Jim Beckel, The Oklahoman]

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-01890121ed00802f866136534fc643a7.jpg" alt="Photo - Wine is on display at Byron's Liquor Warehouse in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma voters passed State Question 792 in November, allowing grocers to sell wine in 2018. [Photo by Jim Beckel, The Oklahoman] " title=" Wine is on display at Byron's Liquor Warehouse in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma voters passed State Question 792 in November, allowing grocers to sell wine in 2018. [Photo by Jim Beckel, The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> Wine is on display at Byron's Liquor Warehouse in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma voters passed State Question 792 in November, allowing grocers to sell wine in 2018. [Photo by Jim Beckel, The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure>
Brianna Bailey

Brianna Bailey joined The Oklahoman in January 2013 as a business writer. During her time at The Oklahoman, she has walked across Oklahoma City twice, once north-to-south down Western Avenue, and once east-to-west, tracing the old U.S. Route 66.... Read more ›

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