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• The Washington Post reports that Wal-Mart has gotten serious – extremely serious – about lobbying in Washington, DC.

“The overarching goal is to improve the company's image so it can operate unhindered by the automatic opposition its reputation has inspired. It also had a specific legislative agenda spanning issues such as normal trade relations with China and the number of hours truck drivers are allowed to work. In its attempt to make its desires known, it has transformed its lobbying force from a humble two-man shop to a $2.5 million operation that employs some of K Street's heaviest hitters.

“Campaign donations from Wal-Mart's political action committee to federal candidates jumped from $135,750 during the 1998 election cycle to $1.3 million in 2006 – the biggest increase and largest amount of any retailer or retail trade organization, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. It has added consultants ranging from a whitewater guide to a former presidential adviser to court the activist groups that have been Wal-Mart's most vocal opponents.”

And yet, Wal-Mart can be outspent on lobbying. For example, during 2006 the retailer spent $2.5 million on total lobbying efforts, including $1.3 million on federal campaigns. During that same time, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) combined to spend $2.9 million on their lobbying efforts.

• The Wall Street Journal reports that Wal-Mart has failed in its attempt to prevent future filings in a North Carolina tax dispute from being made public. The retailer, which is being scrutinized for its efforts to reduce its state tax exposure, had said that public access to its filings created "unreasonable and undue annoyance and oppression of a party that is attempting to litigate a serious dispute with a public agency."

The North Carolina attorney general said that public access to court documents in the case served the public interest, and a state judge agreed.

No word yet on whether Wal-Mart plans to appeal the ruling.

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