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USA Today reports this morning that Wal-Mart Inc. has advanced to become the nation's second largest campaign giver during this presidential election cycle, a far cry from the 2000 elections, when the company wasn't even in the top 100.

Most of the company's donations have been given to Republican candidates.

Wal-Mart's donations are both corporate and through its political action committee, as well as from its employees and the children of the company's late founder, Sam Walton. Most of the donations to this point ($1 million) have been to Congressional candidates; about $5,000 has gone to President Bush's reelection campaign, and no money has been given to any of the Democratic candidates.

Larry Noble, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, a non-partisan watchdog group, said that this shift in priorities is significant because it could affect the national debate on health care, labor, and other regulatory issues.

Of course, Wal-Mart is both the nation's biggest company and the nation's largest private employer - which means that the outcome of any national debate could certainly have an impact on its operations and future.

Wal-Mart also has five staff lobbyists in Washington; it had just one when it opened a DC office in 1999.
KC's View:
You can't blame Wal-Mart for this strategy.

But what other retailers have to wonder is at what point their interests diverge from Wal-Mart's, and at what point they need to be trying to match or exceed the company's political clout, while coming at it from a different direction.