I'm going to spend a second day here on the Beast of Bentonville. If you want to know why the Democratic Party will continue to be the minority party in the country, look no further than the raft of Democratic operatives and elected representatives who do the bidding of Wal-Mart. At the end of this rant, I'll propose a solution to cut off money to any of these Democrats who have ties to Wal-Mart.
Yesterday, I attended the screening of Robert Greenwald's new film, "Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price." You have to see it--or buy your own copy here. It is a great piece of investigative work which gives voice to the people and communities Wal-Mart has destroyed. And the movie makes you wonder why the Democratic Party does not take on Wal-Mart in a big way...well, we know part of the answer: money.
Let's start by looking at what I call the Wal-Mart 22: The 22 Democrats who, on June 24th, voted against an amendment to the 2006 fiscal year Labor appropriations bill (offered by Rosa DeLauro (Connecticut) that would have barred any spending of money by the Department of Labor to implement the part of the deal the department had made with Wal-Mart calling for advance notice of inspections any time the DOL planned to investigate Wal-Mart. This is the deal that was heavily criticized by the Department's Inspector General.
That point bears repeating--the federal government, the people who are supposed to protect citizens from corporate abuse, said to perhaps the most notorious corporate law breaker in recent years, "when we come looking for wrong-doing in your company, we're going to tell you ahead of time." I wonder if the orders for paper shredders skyrocketed in Bentonville after that little deal was made.
Anyway, so who were the Wal-Mart 22? Marion Berry (AR) Sanford Bishop (GA) Dan Boren (OK) G. K. Butterfield (NC) James Clyburn (SC) Bud Cramer (AL) Henry Cuellar (TX) Artur Davis (AL) Diana DeGette (CO) Harold Ford (TN) Charles Gonzalez (TX) Ron Kind (WI) Jim Matheson (UT) Dennis Moore (KS) Mike Ross (AR) John Salazar (CO) Vic Snyder (AR) John Tanner (TN) Mike Thompson (CA) Bennie Thompson (MS) Ed Towns (NY) and Al Wynn (MD).
I'd note a few things about the Wal-Mart 22. A disturbing number of them are members of the Congressional Black Caucus (Bishop, Butterfield Clyburn, Davis, Ford, Bennie Thompson, Town and Wynn). What's up with that? Now, I know Harold Ford is running for the Senate and needs money. But, why should any labor union give him a dime if he's protecting Wal-Mart? I'll come back to that in a moment...
And, then, there is the interesting fact that up pop the names of Ed Towns and Henry Cuellar, who are also proud members of the CAFTA 15. Is there anymore evidence needed that these two deserve to be booted from office via a challenge in the Democratic primary?
Oh, yes, just up the street from the theater, at the swanky W Hotel, Wal-Mart scheduled a press conference last night to attack the Greenwald film. Almost no one from the press showed up. But, who was doing the press work for Wal-Mart? The Marino Organization. Among this p.r. firm's clients are the Directors Guild of America, the Construction Industry Partnership (which is heavily dependent on the building trades in New York) and the Center for American Progress. They also have Republican clients but...
Then, to top it off, I heard from a source that Matt Miller, a staffer at the Center for American Progress, is doing consulting work for Wal-Mart. Miller considers himself a Democrat and CAP, I believe, seems to position itself as a rapid-response operation in opposition to the Republican idea- and-spin machine.
And let's not forget, as I pointed out yesterday, that Clinton operatives are helping Wal-Mart run its "war-room."
UPDATE: This has obviously struck a chord because I'm already getting feedback. As one wag points out, Mia Masten, Walmart's East Coast rep is a former Clinton Administration staffer (her post was Special Assistant to the Senior Advisor to the President for Policy Development). A slight correction from before--Bill Daley was not involved, but, a Chicago source says, "another brother of the mayor, Michael Daley, was hired to lobby for the zoning changes for the west and southside stores. He has a law firm, and if his firm is hired, it is a signal that his position is the one supported by the mayor, a very powerful signal."
UPDATE: A well-connected source writes just now: "It is my understanding that former Sen. Birch Bayh is a "door opener" for Wal-Mart by scheduling/arranging/accompanying Wal-Mart officials to meetings on Capitol Hill." That would be sad, if true, since I still hold on to the memory of Bayh as a stalwart liberal.
This is unconscionable, morally and politically. I think we all get the moral part--I know readers are pretty hip to the way Wal-Mart rampages through our communities (if not, go to www.walmartwatch.com and get religion). But, politically, this is dumb: if the Democratic Party can't be unified in opposition to the number one economic enemy of the people, to the number one enemy undermining any hope for a decent standard of living in the future, then, what exactly should people think the Democratic Party stands for? Why exactly should voters believe that Democrats have any more intention to challenge corporate power? And I do believe that, given the choice between Republicans and Republican-lite (read: CAFTA 15 or the Wal-Mart 22), people will always vote for the real thing.
So, WHAT TO DO? Here are my humble suggestions:
1. The Change To Win Coalition and the AFL-CIO should jointly send a letter to Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, Charles Schumer (head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee) and Rahm Emanuel (head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee) demanding that no work be given to any Democratic operative or consulting firm that shills for Wal-Mart. If the party refuses to at least dry up the money for Wal-Mart shills, then, the two Federations should pledge not to send a single dollar to any campaign committee.
2. Both Federations should also write to every member of Congress declaring that any Democrat receiving Wal-Mart money can kiss any labor donations or labor support good-bye.
3. Both Federation should, then, send a letter to every supposed Democratic campaign consultant and make it clear: you work for us OR you work for Wal-Mart. You can't do both.
We all know the political world is oiled by money. So, if there's really a commitment to roll back Wal-Mart, it makes no sense to me to reward people who aid Wal-Mart. Stop the money--and their hearts will follow.