Sometime ago, I wrote about the phenomena of the ties Democrats have to Wal-Mart. I still believe Democrats have no business cozying up to a company that is doing such damage to our country. But, Wal-Mart certainly isn't giving up, as The Wall Street Journal reports. I'm reprinting the article, with some cuts (snips), because it's instructive about the way money continues to corrupt politics:
To Repel Critics, Wal-Mart Courts Democrats Black, Hispanic Members Receive Special Attention; Rep. Rangel Is Unmoved
By JEANNE CUMMINGS and KRIS HUDSON
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is wooing some core Democratic constituencies as part of a strategy to fend off another round of election-season attacks from labor unions and politicians.
In particular, the retail giant is giving to African-American and Hispanic lawmakers on the theory that many of their constituents are satisfied Wal-Mart shoppers and workers. More than 10% of the company's 1.4 million U.S. workforce is Latino and more than 16% is African-American.
The Bentonville, Ark., firm has rounded out its once insular and heavily Republican political operation by hiring Democratic lobbying and public-relations firms. It is also sweetening health-care benefits for workers just as the issue is poised to become a hot topic in the fall elections, ranking at the top of voter concerns -- and those of Wal-Mart's own employees.
But the company faces a tough road as it tries to woo black lawmakers and create fissures in the Democratic party.
"My feeling with them is that it is all about how they treat workers," said Rep. Charles Rangel of New York, who has received a $2,000 donation from Wal-Mart. "The ball is in their court to provide decent wages and benefits."
Asked if Wal-Mart's recent adjustments have met his standard, he replied: "Not at all."
Quick editorial comment: Ahem, well, Charlie, why did you take the money?
Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., an Illinois Democrat, says he has allies on both sides of the Wal-Mart battle. The retailer recently opened a new store near Mr. Jackson's Chicago district. About 3,000 people applied for the store's 300 positions. Wal-Mart also hired local minority businesses to do accounting and logistical work for the store. But Mr. Jackson says he isn't ready to move into Wal-Mart's camp.
"I fundamentally believe in a living wage. What I refuse to believe is that the richest company in the world can't pay it. I can't reconcile that," he says.
Wal-Mart's efforts reflect a recognition it will be a big target not only in the November midterm elections but also in the 2008 Democratic presidential primary.
Wal-Mart's donations to Democrats appear to be targeting members of the Congressional Black Caucus rather than the party's leadership. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California hasn't gotten a penny from Wal-Mart, but the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, the charitable arm of the Congressional Black Caucus, received $1 million from the firm. In 2005, Wal-Mart donated $1.5 million to the United Negro College Fund.
"I think you would find that we give to people who support our approach to our business and people who have stood up for us. Members of the black caucus have been great allies," says Bob McAdam, Wal-Mart's vice president of corporate affairs.
In spring 2005, Wal-Mart Chief Executive Lee Scott took members of the black caucus to dinner at Charlie Palmer's Restaurant, just off of Capitol Hill.
"Communication is good," says Paul Brathwaite, the caucus's executive director. "It would be nice if other companies, such as Target, Kohls, Sears and others that hire African-Americans, and where African-Americans are consumers, would seek the same type of dialogue."
In June 2005, eight House members of the black caucus voted against a Democratic-backed amendment to the Labor Department budget. The measure, which failed to pass, would effectively have prevented the government from giving Wal-Mart advance warning about visits from various government inspectors.
An event which we covered here...
The company's lobbying expenses jumped to $1.6 million in 2005 from $140,000 in 1998, and Wal-Mart now retains a host of lobbying firms with ties to both parties, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.
Ten years ago, 98% of Wal-Mart's political donations went to Republicans. Now, 70% go to Republicans, who control Congress and the White House, and 30% to Democrats, according to Political MoneyLine, a nonpartisan watchdog group. "As our company has grown, it becomes more important to broaden our giving," says Wal-Mart's Mr. McAdam.
Polls commissioned by the company suggest it might have popular support on its side. A June poll by RT Strategies, a bipartisan polling firm, found that 62% of voters disapprove of Democratic candidates making Wal-Mart an issue in the election. Among Democrats, 48% disapproved while 34% approved.
A July poll by Strategy One, a research arm of Wal-Mart's outside public-relations firm, Edelman Public Affairs, found that 64% of Democrats have a favorable opinion of Wal-Mart, with much of the support coming from African-Americans, one of the party's most loyal voting blocs.
Thomas Riehle, a Democrat and an RT Strategies polling expert, says the results suggest his party might be erring in aligning itself so closely with labor's battle against Wal-Mart. "In politics, you don't go to a great deal of effort to annoy people," he says.
I'd like to see how those questions were phrased. I actually remember focus groups that I watched where people voiced great concern about Wal-Mart and, when asked, thought the poor treatment of workers was not acceptable.
In addition, the résumé of Leslie Dach, Wal-Mart's new head of communications and lobbying, includes work for the National Audubon Society and the Environmental Defense advocacy group.
Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club, is a strong Wal-Mart critic. Yet while skeptical of many of the company's environmental promises, he also acknowledges the improvement. "We are excited by examples where a company can do well by doing good," Mr. Pope says. "I would love to have everybody else copy Wal-Mart," when it comes to reducing oil consumption.
Yet Wal-Mart still faces dozens of lawsuits that provide ammunition for critics, many of whom think the company hasn't done enough to improve the lot of its workers, especially on wages. Many suits, some of which have been certified as class-actions, allege employment and hiring violations. The most significant is a potentially expensive and damaging complaint in federal court in San Francisco alleging that Wal-Mart discriminated against women in its promotion and pay practices. A Wal-Mart spokeswoman declined to comment on the case. In December, a California jury awarded 116,000 Wal-Mart employees in that state $172 million after finding they had been denied lunch breaks.
In the past year, Wal-Mart bolstered health-care coverage, offering lower premiums with high deductibles for employees who visit the doctor infrequently.