Wal-Mart increases its political activity

The Greensboro (N.C.) News & Record reports that Wal-Mart's federal political action committee, the retailer's political arm, has been expanding its donations to candidates seeking North Carolina state office, including $54,000 to state-level candidates during the current election cycle.

According to the News & Record, in North Carolina, the PAC seems to support candidates with business-friendly reputations:

Of the 52 North Carolina state-level candidates to whom the PAC has given in the election cycle, recipients include Sen. Phil Berger, a Republican who represents Rockingham County and parts of Guilford County; Rep. Nelson Cole, a Reidsville Democrat; Sen. Kay Hagan, a Greensboro Democrat; and Rep. Hugh Holliman, a Lexington Democrat.

But Wal-Mart is not only stepping up its involvement in state-level policy-making. Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported that the company has been holding mandatory meetings with store managers and department heads, encouraging them to oppose the election of Barack Obama and to vote against Democrats in U.S. Senate campaigns because of concerns over pro-labor union legislation. The Wall-Street Journal reported:

The Wal-Mart human-resources managers ... make it clear that voting for Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama would be tantamount to inviting unions in, according to Wal-Mart employees who attended gatherings in Maryland, Missouri and other states.

Wal-Mart continues to face scrutiny for its aggressive anti-union activity, policies that include shutting down the few stores where employees have been able to start organizing drives and firing many others for union activity. This latest anti-union activity surrounds Wal-Mart's fear that Democrats will resurrect the Employee Free Choice Act, a bill that, if passed, would make it much easier and quicker for employees to unionize. Wal-Mart, alongside other large corporations, has been putting heavy funds and resources into lobbying against the passage of the EFCA.

"We believe EFCA is a bad bill and we have been on record as opposing it for some time," David Tovar, a Wal-Mart spokesman, told the Wall Street Journal. "We feel educating our associates about the bill is the right thing to do."

Wal-Mart's stake in political activity seems to only be on the rise. As reported by the Associated Press in March, Wal-Mart's lobbying budget increased by nearly 60% in 2007. They are now spending more than $4 million to influence government policy-making.