The Center for Public Integrity has released two videos tying Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-NY, to Wal-Mart, a company on whose board she once served, though she has distanced herself from the company in recent years because of its unpopularity among some labor unions and other groups.
But even though Clinton in 2005 returned a $5,000 contribution from Wal-Mart for her Senate re-election campaign, she was as First Lady of Arkansas close to Sam Walton and the executives of Wal-Mart.
The first video shows Sam Walton in 1991 at the grand re-opening of the company’s original store in Rogers, Arkansas.
"You are one of the finest lawyers, legal persons, that I’ve ever met or I’ve known," Walton effuses. "Without any question, you’ve added more to our board than any person we’ve ever had on that board.”
Says Clinton, after Walton calls her on stage, “I’m so proud of this company, and everything it represents. Anytime I travel and I tell people I’m from Arkansas…Wal-Mart’s on top of the list, and everybody wants me to tell them about Wal-Mart and Sam Walton and Helen Walton and all of the Wal-Mart associates. It makes me feel real good about what we’re able to do and what we can show and the sort of leadership we’re given.”
The second video is of Clinton cutting the ribbon.
Wal-Mart has been asked to release the minutes of its meetings during the era that Clinton was a paid director of the company, but it has refused. And Clinton has for the most part been fairly mum on the topic; her six years as a director of the country’s largest company is not mentioned on her campaign website.
Wal-Mart seems to be a sensitive topic for the Clintons.
The website WakeUpWalMart.com, funded by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, blames the company for "lowering wages, forcing good paying American jobs overseas, and cutting costs with total disregard for the values that have made this nation great. Wal-Mart has needlessly exploited illegal immigrants, faces the largest gender discrimination lawsuit in history, forced workers to work in an unsafe environment, and — incredibly — broken child labor laws."
On January 21, during the Democrats’ contentious South Carolina debate, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, said that when he was a community organizer in the 1980s and "was working on those streets watching those folks see their jobs shift overseas, you were a corporate lawyer sitting on the board at Wal-Mart."
Clinton struck back, saying that she had been fighting Republican ideas "when you were practicing law and representing your contributor, Rezko, in his slum landlord business in inner city Chicago."
Obama subsequently included a page on Clinton and Wal-Mart on his campaign website.
Soon afterward, Clinton’s husband, the former president, defended her wife’s participation on the Wal-Mart board, as ABC News’ Kate Snow, Sarah Amos and Jennifer Parker reported in January.
"When she was asked to go on the board of Wal-Mart, they had no women in positions of management, and they had no environmental profile," former President Bill Clinton told voters in Lexington, SC. "And she was asked if she would serve and try to help them become more environmentally sensitive, and she agreed to do it."
Bill Clinton heralded the environmental progress the company made, spurred by his wife. "Even Wal-Mart’s strongest critics agree that it’s one of the leading forces for trying to help make America more economically independent on the energy front," he said. Then-Arkansas First Lady Hillary Clinton had less success, however, pushing the company to put more women in positions of senior management.
Accounts suggest that she was not active fighting the company’s opposition to labor unions.