Over the past four election cycles, the giant retailer has been steadily boosting its contributions to state and local politicians, just as such politicians have been taking on bigger roles in deciding key issues concerning the company's operations, from the local minimum wage and required health-care benefits to zoning for big-box retailers.
Wal-Mart gave a total of $326,875 in the 2000 election cycle, $431,017 in 2002, and $857,179 in 2004, according to research by the Institute on Money in State Politics, a nonpartisan, nonprofit research organization based in Helena, Mont. For the 2006 election cycle, the company has given $644,655 so far and seems to be on track to hit a record for political contributions.
Adding in money for ballot initiatives and other local issues brings the total of Wal-Mart state giving so far this cycle to $1.25 million.
Wal-Mart says it's become necessary to step up its contributions. For two decades it largely shunned politics because company founder Sam Walton didn't believe such activities benefited his customers. In fact, Wal-Mart didn't hire any lobbyists or establish any political action committees until 1998.
Today, Schwarzenegger has at least two more bills sitting on his desk that are targeted at Wal-Mart. One of the bills would require big-box retailers to conduct an economic impact report before opening large stores. Another would force large retailers to pay the legal fees of communities that win cases challenging zoning ordinances in court. Wal-Mart has sued towns with such ordinances in the past—Fresno and Turlock have won their cases and other towns have lost. But the huge legal bills that piled up during the court fights have scared other municipalities.
"The question now is: Will the governor succumb to the financial influence that Wal-Mart and the Walton family are trying to exert over his administration with their multimillion-dollar donations, and neglect a cry for help from small cities, small businesses, and workers?" asks California state Senator Richard Alarcon, who authored the latest bills.
Van Hollen: State law prevails without Roe
Madison -- If the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion were to be overturned while he was attorney general, Republican attorney general candidate J.B. Van Hollen said Wednesday that the state would need to enforce a Wisconsin statute that criminalizes abortion.
But, Van Hollen said local prosecutors, not the state Department of Justice, would take the lead in such cases. While the department would provide guidance to prosecutors about what should be enforced, "I wouldn't overstep my bounds," Van Hollen said to the Dane County Public Affairs Council Wednesday morning.
Here is a question for Winnebago County DA Candidate Gossett. Where do you stand on this? Will you be waiting outside of doctor offices ready to prosecute? Will you introduce the Winnebago County DA's Office into a woman's personal decisions?
Will you prosecute rape vicims? Will you introduce police officers into the bedrooms, hospitals and health care offices of Winnebago County?
Following the Cole bombing, Clinton counterterrorism forces started working on an aggressive plan to retaliate against al Qaeda. Their plan to strike back reached then national security advisor Sandy Berger and other top officials on December 20, 2000. But with less than a month remaining in office and the Bush team about to take over, they decided it would be wrong to take an action that would tie the incoming administration's hands. Instead they took their case to the new administration in the hopes that some version of the plan might be enacted before it was too late. CIA director George Tenet termed al Qaeda a "tremendous threat" as well as an "immediate" one, while Berger warned Rice, "You're going to spend more time during your four years on terrorism generally and al Qaeda specifically than any other issue."
Clarke, who headed the counterterrorism office, then offered up a complete Power Point presentation to Rice, promising, "We would make a major error if we underestimated the challenge al Qaeda poses." Featuring a complete set of proposals to "roll back" al Qaeda, Clarke's plan envisaged the "breakup" of al Qaeda cells and their arrest and imprisonment. He also called for an attack on the financial network that supported the terrorists, freezing its assets, exposing its phony charities, and arresting its personnel. The United States would offer help to such disparate nations as Uzbekistan, the Philippines, and Yemen to combat the al Qaeda forces in their respective midsts.
And finally, Clarke's proposal suggested a significant increase in U.S. covert action in Afghanistan with the goal of "eliminat[ing] the sanctuary" where the Taliban and bin Laden were operating in tandem. The plan recommended a considerable increase in American support for the Northern Alliance in their fight to overthrow the Taliban's repressive regime, thereby keeping the terrorists preoccupied with protecting their gains, rather than seeking new victories elsewhere.
Simultaneously American military forces would begin planning for special operations inside Afghanistan and bombing strikes against terrorist-training camps.
It was an enormous undertaking, and Newsweek quoted one official as costing out the plan at "several hundreds of millions." Instead of acting on it, however, the Bush administration decided -- as it did with the Hart-Rudman recommendations -- to lay it aside and conduct its own review. Rice did not even bother to set up a high-level meeting to discuss the issue, but instead effectively demoted Clarke through a reorganization of the NSC structure.
As power in any strong hierarchy flows downward, the rest of the Bush team was hardly more concerned about meeting a potential terrorist threat.
All through the governmental system, the issue was moved, in the words of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Hugh Shelton, "farther to the back burner."
A gold-and-silver commemorative coin spun through the air Monday and landed on a sea otter pelt -- tails up -- giving challenger Bryce Edgmon the Democratic slot on the November ballot for a seat in the state House of Representatives.
[sad piano music]
MOTHER: [holding picture of son in uniform] This is my son James.
BUSH: I like to tell people when the final history is written on Iraq...
MOTHER: James was killed in Iraq last year.
BUSH: ...it will look like just a comma.
MOTHER: My son was not a comma. He had a wife and a son and parents who loved him.
BUSH:[at Correspondents Dinner]Those weapons of mass destruction have got to be here somewhere![audience laughs]
MOTHER: Now James is dead because of a war based on lies.
BUSH:[at Correspondents Dinner]No, no weapons over there![audience laughs]
MOTHER:A war that's made all of President Bush's corrupt buddies rich.
SUPER: Headlines—"Halliburton gets billions in contracts," "Lockheed CEO payout in millions"
MOTHER: Please vote this November, and send George Bush a message.
REPORTER:Mr. President, in your speeches now you rarely talk or mention Osama bin Laden.
BUSH:I truly am not that concerned about him.
SUPER: "Vote to send a message. Vote for change. Vote Democratic."