Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Wal-Mart a big giver to 2004 U.S. election: "Wal-Mart, the largest company in the U.S., looks set to pass a new milestone this year: It is well on its way to becoming the biggest business contributor to the 2004 election campaign.

"After years of little involvement in federal politics, the Arkansas-based retail giant is currently the largest corporate donor through its political action committee (PAC), having doled out nearly $1.3 million to federal candidates until the end of January."

"As recently as the 2000 presidential election year, Wal-Mart ranked 771st in direct contributions to federal politicians."

"Jay Allen, senior vice-president of corporate affairs for Wal-Mart and treasurer for the company's PAC, says he began discussing with senior management five or six years ago the need for the retail giant to wield greater clout in Washington.

"'It was not like there was one company or event or issue [that influenced us],' he says, 'It became increasingly clear that we needed a presence there, to engage on legislative issues that arise in Washington—like taxes, health care, trade, food safety.

"'The second issue was a need that frankly still exists today, with everything that is going on, for people to understand us better,' he adds. 'When you are not there it creates a void that someone else is going to fill, and you may not like their definition of you.'"

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