Wal-Mart, the retailer many experts consider the most-sued company in America, stands to benefit from the new class-action law, which is designed to cut down on lawsuits and big verdicts by steering some cases into federal courts, away from state courts with track records of siding with plaintiffs and awarding multimillion-dollar verdicts, according to policy experts.
The company, which expressed disdain for Washington politics in the 1990s, changed its tune dramatically after then-Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) sat down with the company's managers in Bentonville, Ark., in the late 1990s and warned them of the perils of sitting on the sidelines.
Soon after, Wal-Mart became a major player in GOP politics, funneling money to groups such as the U.S. Chamber to lobby on its behalf and creating a political action committee. In the elections last year, the company's $2.4 million PAC was the third-largest corporate PAC in the country, with nearly 80 percent of its money going to Republicans. Wal-Mart officials contributed more than $30,000 to Bush last election, according to Federal Election Commission data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan organization that prepared the fundraising data for this article.
In many cases, companies such as Wal-Mart spend significantly more money hiring Republican lobbyists and helping fund groups such as the U.S. Chamber and other GOP-dominated trade associations that are not required to disclose their donors than they devote to political candidates. Wal-Mart, for instance, has contributed at least $1 million to the Chamber of Commerce, according to chamber documents.
Marty Heires, a Wal-Mart spokesman, said the company did not want to comment for this report. "They want to play it low-key on this," he said.
And it's not just Republicans:
The Clintons also benefited financially from Wal-Mart. Hillary Clinton was paid $18,000 each year she served on the board, plus $1,500 for each meeting she attended. By 1993 she had accumulated at least $100,000 in Wal-Mart stock, according to Bill Clinton's federal financial disclosure that year. The Clintons also flew for free on Wal-Mart corporate planes 14 times in 1990 and 1991 in preparation for Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential bid.
And it's not just WalMart, Inc., it's also the Waltons:
Wal-Mart (WMT) drew broad scrutiny last year as its political spending soared in nationwide battles over health care, labor and other hot-button issues threatening the giant retailer's growth.
The late Sam Walton, founder of retail giant Wal-Mart.
Now, in a little-noticed move, the company's founding family has plunged into a fight to pass income tax changes and other legislation that could preserve its grip on the USA's biggest business and the family's $84 billion fortune.
Led by Sam Walton's only daughter, Alice, the family spent $3.2 million on lobbying, conservative causes and candidates for last year's federal elections. That's more than double what it spent in the previous two elections combined, public documents show.
Noble says the Bush administration monitors gifts to groups such as Progress for America, so the Walton donation puts the family on the White House speed dial.Go here for more on the Waltons lobbying activities.
You can go here to see how much WalMart and the Waltons pay Patton Boggs, LLP to lobby on their behalf.