Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Alice (Walton) in Wonderland

(Below) Washington County, Arkansas - South Old Missouri Road (Arkansas State Highway 265)

It was on a Tuesday morning, April 4, 1989 (exactly 23 years ago to this very day) when the CEO of an investment bank in Fayetteville, Arkansas was on her way to work on route AR 265 South, also known as the South Old Missouri Road.

It was crisp and clear Spring morning; the temperatures were in the mid 50's with a light breeze. The 39-year-old woman had been speeding along the winding Arkansas road in her swanky 1987 Porsche, listening to the music on the car's stereo.

A few miles down the highway, 50-year-old Oleta Hardin had already finished getting ready for work. She had been employed at a local canning factory and had been waiting for her co-worker to pick her up for work, but her friend was running a little late.

Oleta's husband, Harold Hardin, was still working the graveyard shift at a nearby tool shop, and wouldn't be home for at least another hour.

At first, Oleta had been waiting on her front porch, but she became impatient, so she decided to cross the street and check her mail box -- saving some time from having to have her co-worker turn off the main highway to pick her up in front of the house.

Meanwhile, the woman in the Porsche, who was the founder on the corporate investment group called Llama Company, was speeding along on her way to work when her mobile phone rang. As she glanced down to retrieve the receiver she saw a sudden movement through her peripheral vision, and before she knew what had happened, she instantly and simultaneously heard and felt a loud thump and crash of glass. The face of a mutilated and bloody head of a woman had slammed into the windshield of her sleek Porsche, just before the body had quickly bounced off the Porsche's hood and rolled away onto highway to finally rest, prone on her back.

The 39-year-old banker had immediately slammed on her brakes while letting out a terrifying scream before skidding to a halt. Then she numbly pulled off to the side of the road and crawled out of her sports car to walk unsteadily back to the mangled and bloody body that was lying by the side of the road.

Witnesses had called the Springdale police to report the accident, while the shaken CEO had stood nearby, nervous and afraid. She already had multiple speeding violations under her belt -- she been ticketed twice just in the previous year, and she had been speeding when she hit Oleta Hardin.

50-year-old Oleta Hardin, mother of two adult sons, was lying dead. Initial police reports were contradictory, one saying she died at the scene, another saying she had died later from her injuries.

Oleta Hardin's husband, Harold, arrived home from work barely an hour later to find a policeman waiting on his front porch. The woman who had hit his wife had been standing nearby, talking to officers several yards away. She was still hysterical, her Yves St Laurent suit was splattered with blood, human matter and shards of glass.

Later the Springdale police claimed she was not under the influence at the time, ignored her previous driving record, and according to un-named witnesses, the accident couldn't have been avoided. So the police decided not to press any charges against her -- for manslaughter, or even for speeding.

Four years later the woman CEO's father had died at the ripe old age of 88. She herself was now 43, but now was an heir to the Wal-Mart empire, as well as the Walton family fortune. Alice Walton, the "speedster", had become a "multi-billion-heiress" overnight in 1992.

Years later, according to Bob Ortega in his book In Sam We Trust (The Untold Story of Sam Walton), Alice had been traveling from her family farm in Bentonville to work. And that Oleta Hardin's widower, Harold Hardin, was never offered monetary compensation for his wife's death, other than what Alice had through her auto insurance company -- although the Walton's lawyers did offer poor Harold $2,500 for Oleta's funeral expenses.

How The Tragedy Began

Alice Walton was born October 7, 1949. A year later in 1950 her father, Sam Walton, bought the Harrison Variety Store on the town square in Bentonville, Arkansas. He remodeled the building and opened Walton’s 5 and 10 Variety Store on March 18, 1951. The town would eventually become the site of Wal-Mart’s corporate headquarters.



When Alice was a young 21 and attending college, Wal-Mart stock went public in 1970 with 300,000 shares for sale at $16.50 each. After graduating from school, Alice worked for First Commerce Corporation and then later at Arvest Bank Group.

In 1979 the SEC accused Alice—then a 30-year-old broker (and 11 other E.F.Hutton employees in eight cities) of making "unsuitable" option trades for customers. In a letter Alice Walton wrote to the SEC on April 18, 1979, she denied that she violated any laws, but accepted a settlement "to avoid protracted litigation." She was suspended from the securities business for six months. She learned to lie and cheat at an early age.

During a 1983 Thanksgiving family reunion near Acapulco, Mexico, Alice Walton (now 34) lost control of a rented Jeep and plunged into a ravine, shattering her leg. She would undergo more than two dozen surgeries during the subsequent year and is said to suffer lingering pain from her injuries.

It was in 1988 that Alice Walton founded the new investment bank in Fayetteville, Arkansas (just south of the Bentonville/Springdale area) and named it Llama Company. The following year in 1989, was when Alice had ran down Harold's poor wife, Oleta Hardin.

Four years later, at the time of Sam Walton's death in 1992, he owned 48% of the outstanding shares of Wal-Mart. He split these shares evenly among his wife and four children -- Sam, Jr., John (who later died in a plane crash), Jim, and, of course, Alice. Sam also left two spots on the board of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.

If Sam Walton were alive today, he would not only be the richest person alive (twice as rich as Bill Gates), but the richest person to ever have lived on the planet Earth.

Alice Not In Chains

On January 27, 1998, Alice (now 49) lost control of her 1997 Toyota 4-Runner and slammed it into a telephone box and a gas meter, with the impact breaking her nose. At 10:30 PM the Springdale police AGAIN came to investigate.

The officer, Charles Motsinger, who responded to the scene after her crash, was met by a thoroughly soused Alice. Despite her condition, she had made it very clear that she expected preferential treatment. The detective had said, "She turned back to me and repeatedly asked me, 'Do you know who I am? Do you know my last name?'"

She refused to take a sobriety test, so the police held her at the local hospital - - until a family connection came down and reminded her that she had to take the DWI test or be found guilty without it.

The local paper reported on her late night/early morning gathering with friends at a Fayetteville restaurant/bar. Stories were mixed on how many drinks Alice had really consumed.

The Springdale police, being completely "democratic", proceeded as normal and charged her like they would have anybody else. Records from the Springdale District Court in Arkansas later showed that Alice was convicted of driving under the influence.

The Newsflash reported on May 30, 1998 that Alice had been found guilty of driving while impaired, failure to wear a seatbelt, and failure to maintain control of her car.

Alice Walton chose to fight her charges in court, and hired a lawyer to defend her. Walton was eventually found guilty, and fined $350, plus $300 in court costs, and spent 24 hours of public community service. She could have paid a $650 fine, and had that case dismissed, but she chose to fight the charges.

One report says she was fined $925 and given a sentence of community service, sorting files at the Jones Center for Families for about two weeks.

Any sane person would think that having $21 billion would enable them to arrange a driver any time they might want to consume a few adult beverages. If it were up to me, I would base fines on the person's wealth. The rich, we'll say, would have to pay $1,000 for a speeding ticket, while a poor person would only have to pay $10. But Alice could have afforded to hire a taxi -- or a chauffeur and a limousine. There's no excuse at all for her recklessness.

After her last DWI in Arkansas, according to a news account in the Charlotte Observer, Alice Walton was moving her legal residence to Texas, "which would enable her to shield her billions in net worth from Arkansas state income tax". Which just goes to show that something good can come out of something bad. Just ask Alice.

That year in 1998 Alice Walton, a lifelong equestrienne, closed her investment bank Llama Company and left her home State of Arkansas. She moved her permanent residency to Millsap, Texas. There she opened the Rocking W Ranch, a horse ranch, where she needs not have to pay any state income tax at all.

Alice's ranch is on 3,200 acres of forest land, and she has been living her reclusive life in a 4,432 square foot stucco house, built in the middle of the ranch. The ranch is particularly known for its race-winning horses, which are bred for "cutting", meaning they are trained for a competition in which riders in a ring compete to separate cattle singly from a herd.

She is now a 63-year-old divorcée, a Texas resident, a rancher, and an avid art collector who's worth north of $20 billion.

3 Times A Charm!

After celebrating her 62nd birthday on Friday night, October 7, 2011 in Fort Worth, Texas, Alice Walton got into her 2006 Ford F-150 King Ranch and proceeded to speed away from the event, going back to her Parker County home in Millsap, Texas.

Walton was stopped on Interstate 20 in a construction zone near South Main Street in Weatherford for speeding shortly after 10 p.m. by Texas Highway Patrol, Trooper Jeff Davis, according to Senior Trooper Gary Rozzell. Fox News reported that she was doing 71 in a 55 m.p.h. zone (construction zones are usually a double penalty).

According to the Texas Highway Patrol, Walton was initially stopped for speeding but when the arresting officer suspected that she might be over the legal alcohol limit, he administered a field sobriety test. She failed.

According to the Weatherford (Texas) Democrat: “Through an investigation at the scene, [Walton] was determined to be intoxicated during a field sobriety test,” Rozzell said. Walton refused a breath test, according to Rozzell.

Alice Walton was then arrested for driving while intoxicated (her first offense in Texas and a class B misdemeanor) and transported to the Parker County Jail. She was booked into jail at 11:12 PM that Friday night and released on $1,000 bond the next morning at 8:39 AM, according to the records of the Parker County Sheriff.

Although the Texas Highway Patrol charged her with a first offense, records from the Springdale District Court in Arkansas indicate that she was also convicted of driving under the influence in 1998. One commenter noted, "A few years ago when I was in Bentonville, she was in trouble for slapping a cop. No time had been served. This might be her first offense in Texas, but it is sure as hell was not her first offense." (Why someone needs to take the car keys from Wal-Mart heiress)

Today, 23 years later, Alice Walton is supposedly still haunted by that day on that Arkansas road, but what has she done since that time to redeem her soul for the life she may have accidentally took?

Please, More Tax Cuts!

Campaign finance reports show that Alice Walton and her brother gave a total of $400,000 to Mitt Romney’s super PAC, Restore Our Future. Romney’s tax plan would cut taxes for the ultra-wealthy and for corporations. How would many Wal-Mart employees, who average $8.81 an hour, fare under his plan? Christian Science Monitor explains, Romney’s plan would, on average, raise taxes for those households in the bottom two quintiles.”

We Love Radical Republicans!

Heirs to the Wal-Mart fortune, radicals including Alice and brother Jim Walton, (pictured below) have given thousands to Wisconsin political candidates since mid-2008. (Photo courtesy of Wal-Mart.)

As the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism reported in September 2011, Alice Walton was the top individual contributor to winning state legislative candidates in the 2010 elections that put Republicans in control of the state government. Under the first budget passed by Gov. Scott Walker and the Republican-majority legislature, funding for public schools was cut by $800 million over two years, while funding for programs that funnel public money to private schools increased by $17 million over two years.

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

Alice Walton and her Walton family museum is called Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, and just opened last year in Bentonville, Arkansas (Where Sam Walton began in 1950).

The Walton family has given at least $2.4 billion to underwrite the museum. The Walton family and the Walton Family Foundation have reportedly invested more than $800 million of their own money into the museum.

It isn't that, when Wal-Mart heiress Alice Walton purchased Asher B. Durand's 1849 painting Kindred Spirits last year, that she got the state of Arkansas to pass legislation specifically to save her taxes--in this case, about $3 million on a purchase price of $35 million

As Wal-MartWatch.com points out, the price of that one painting alone equals what the state of Arkansas spends every two years providing for Wal-Mart's 3,971 employees on public assistance; or that the average Wal-Mart cashier makes $7.92 an hour and, since Wal-Mart likes to keep people on less than full-time schedules, works only twenty-nine hours a week for an annual income of $11,948--so a Wal-Mart cashier would have to work a little under 3,000 years to earn the price of that painting without taking any salary out for food, housing or other expenses (and a few hundred more years to pay the taxes, if the state legislature didn't exempt our semi-immortal worker).

A group that seeks improved working conditions for Wal-Mart employees took issue over "the fact that Walton has spent millions of dollars on a museum while her family's organization, Wal-Mart, recently raised health care premiums and has capped salaries for many of its employees."

It's not uncommon in America for very rich people who've been ruthless in business dealings, indifferent at best to the suffering of their employees, to become huge supporters of art and education in their later years. Fricks, Mellons, Carnegies, Rockefellers — they were not nice guys necessarily, but gifts have merit, independent of the giver, and America would be worse without the contributions to culture that such men have made.

The trouble lies in what the painting means and what Alice Walton and her $20+ billion means. Art patronage has always been a kind of money-laundering, a pretty public face for fortunes made in uglier ways. SWAG investments (silver, wine, art, and gold) are a great way to dodge taxes.

The conservatives fought for the English nobility with their inherited wealth and titles in the Revolutionary war; and now they are fighting for the American nobility with their inherited wealth and titles today.

The only difference is, we don't have to bow down to Alice Walton or her family...at least, not yet.

"I'd hate to see any descendants of mine fall into the category of what I call 'idle rich' . I hope they'll feel compelled to do something productive and useful and challenging." — Sam Walton, patriarch of the Wal-Mart Dynasty

"You know who I am, don’t you? You know my last name?" —Alice Walton, to police who pulled her over for drunk driving in 1998 (Who could forget dear Alice?)

Alice Walton: Above the Law?

Fair Wages

Wal-Mart became the behemoth it is today by driving down the wages of its own employees--and by using its weight in the market to pressure suppliers to drive down wages for their workers. Prior to Wal-Mart's rise, labor comprised about 30 percent of total costs for an average retail company. Wal-Mart drove down labor's share to 15 percent.

One important way Sam Walton drove down wages was by fostering a corporate culture of messianic opposition to labor unions. Wal-Mart managers are under constant pressure to keep the union out. When unions do get a foothold--as they did recently in Quebec and Mexico, and 10 years ago with butchers at a Wal-Mart in Jacksonville, Texas--the company closed down stores, or in the case of the butchers, simply abolished the department.

The impact on employees is obvious. Only a minority of "associates" is covered by the company health care plan, and Wal-Mart was publicly embarrassed by revelations that it encouraged workers to go on welfare to subsidize their meager wages and benefits.(READ: Low Wages Kills Jobs, Not High Taxes)

Rocking W Ranch
P.O. Box 730 (11500 W Interstate 20)
Millsap, TX 76066
Phone: 817-599-4645
Owner: Alice L. Walton
Horse Trainer: Chris Bates

10 comments:

  1. While it is fair to say that the Waltons have been despicable employers, the irony is that many Americans are forced to shop at Wal-Mart, not by choice, but out of necessity. The same policies that have driven down the wages of Wal-Mart employees are common with employers throughout the country. Alice is living proof that money and intelligence are not always synonymous. Thanks for posting that story.

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  2. On November 6, 1963, 17-year-old Michael Dutton Douglas was an "acquaintance" of Laura Welch (later First Lady Laura Bush) who was killed when Welch, also 17, failed to stop at a stop sign while driving and broadsided his vehicle. Welch was not ticketed or charged in connection with the collision. (No blood or sobriety tests).

    On the evening of December 8, 1984, Mötley Crüe lead singer Vince Neil was driving in Redondo Beach with Nicholas Dingley, drummer for the band Hanoi Rocks, when Neil lost control of his vehicle and crashed into an oncoming car. Dingley was killed, and the two occupants of the other car suffered serious injuries. Neil had a blood-alcohol level more than twice the legal limit and was arrested for drunk driving and vehicular manslaughter. In 1986, he was sentenced to 30 days in jail and was ordered to pay the victims of the crash $2.6 million. He served only 15 of the 30 days in jail.

    And of course, there's Ted Kennedy. The super-rich and well-connected get slapped on the wrist for egregious crimes.

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  3. You jerk, what connections did Laura Welch have at that time? She was devasted to learn she killed a friend. I'm outraged over Alice not paying the family of the woman she killed a hefty amount of money.

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  4. It seems to me that in Texas drunk driving is pretty much a sport for the rich.

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  5. Yes i learned that by seeing it they put the alcohol or beer or whatever in an obvious liquor brown bag open the lid and drink like that then they throw empty container in truck vehicle what ever it freaked me out.

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  6. Thanks for taking the time to research and post this. How very sad, greedy and pathetic that the husband Hardin wasn't compensated for his loss.

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  7. I agree. One would think that a Walton (who earns $1 million a day in stock dividends) couldn't help those people out a little. Very sad.

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  8. Has anyone reached out to the Harold Hardin family for their comments on the story?


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  9. I appreciate at long last reading of the facts behind the drunken Walton woman's killing of a working class woman. I ran across it years ago but for so long nothing could be found on search engines.

    The noblesse oblige seeks to create a new feudal system in America. WalMart crushes its workers and forces a huge number of them to food stamps to survive, all the while fighting the raising of the minimum wage and any appearance of unionization. WalMart enjoys corporate welfare. It puts unholy pressure on its manufacturers who first cut workers, then wages before feeling forced to China or India where they can enslave and pollute.

    This museum is located for drunken Alice's convenience, not where any meaningful population can attend it.

    As far as the Carnegie's etc. putting on a show of magnanimity, these types are simply hedging their bets in the event there is a vengeful god.

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    Replies
    1. I'll share none of my opinions about the actions of this woman or her family, but must say it is very good to have another art museum in the Midwest.

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