Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Wal-Mart, Always Partisan, Always?

Remember how our local Wal-Mart critics hate Wal-Mart because it donates more to Republican candidates than Democratic ones?

Check out this story from the AP:
Voter Group Banned From Wal-Mart Stores

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- A voter registration group with Republican ties has been banished from Wal-Mart stores in Tennessee for failing to meet the retailer's standards of nonpartisanship and may soon be shut out of stores in California and Nevada, the retailer's spokesman said Tuesday.

Liberty Consultants wanted to register Wal-Mart shoppers in seven traditionally Republican suburban counties around Nashville. But the request was denied after the company's owner, Gary Thompson, acknowledged to Wal-Mart that he had been hired by Tempe, Ariz.-based Sproul & Associates.

Headed by Nathan Sproul, a former Christian Coalition activist and executive director of the Arizona GOP, Sproul & Associates was paid $7.9 million by the Republican National Committee for consulting and voter registration drives in the 2004 election cycle, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.

The group set up tables Friday at a Wal-Mart in Gallatin, about 25 miles northeast of Nashville, despite being denied permission earlier in the week. They left only when company officials threatened to call police, Wal-Mart spokesman Dennis Alpert said.

Liberty Consultants tried to have the Tennessee store ban overturned by calling officials at Wal-Mart's Bentonville, Ark., headquarters.

"They questioned our decision on their request, stating that our policy allows for nonpartisan voter registration," Alpert said. "But our research indicated they did not fit our definition of nonpartisanship."

Wal-Mart's legal department was in the process of alerting California and Nevada stores about Liberty Consultants' contract with Sproul, Alpert said.

Sproul's canvassers focused on signing up Republican voters in key battleground states in 2004. Former canvassers came forward in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Nevada and Oregon to say they were told to register only Republicans and to walk away from people who said they intended to vote for Democrat John Kerry. Some said completed Democratic registration forms were thrown out or ripped up.

Sproul has denied any wrongdoing. He did not return a phone call from The Associated Press about the Wal-Mart ban.

An RNC spokeswoman could not immediately say whether Sproul was working for the Republicans in this election cycle. The Tennessee Republican Party did not immediately return messages.

Thompson said: "I was told not to talk to any reporters." He declined to say by whom.

Tennessee is in the middle of a tough campaign to replace Republican Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist - a race that could affect which party controls the U.S. Senate.

"They know this election is close, and they know that Harold Ford is making progress every day," said Tom Lee, senior adviser for communications and policy for the campaign of the Democratic nominee. "That's why they're here."

Republican nominee Bob Corker's campaign could not immediately be reached for comment.

The world's largest retailer has been getting more involved in politics in recent years, with the large majority of its donations going to Republican candidates.

About 80 percent of the $2.2 million in contributions made by Wal-Mart political action committees and employees in 2004 went to Republicans. So far in the current election cycle, 74 percent of Wal-Mart's $735,605 in individual and PAC contributions has gone to the GOP, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
It's one thing to make political donations (you can't blame Wal-Mart for donating more to Republicans given the Democrats' stance towards them lately), but at least Wal-Mart pays by the rules and is fair. Do you think we'll see any acknowledgment of this from critics? Me neither.

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