The Center for Public Integrity’s “Buying of the President 2008” project has just posted a story with archival video footage of founder and former CEO of Wal-Mart, Sam Walton talking with Hillary Clinton. Wal-Mart has become the largest global employer in recent years and has been the subject of a great deal of public anger over its labor practices and destroying local economies. The mainstream news coverage of Clinton as a presidential candidate has mostly ignored her relationship to Wal-Mart:
“Throughout the 2008 presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton has studiously avoided discussing her five-and-a-half-year tenure as a director of Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer.
Clinton, who served on the Wal-Mart board from November 1986 to May 1992, while she was First Lady of Arkansas, makes no mention of the experience in speeches, nor is it listed in her official biography or referenced anywhere on her campaign’s website. Indeed, as The New York Times put it last year, her stint as a director of Wal-Mart “remains a little known chapter in her closely scrutinized career.”
But a mammoth archive of Wal-Mart video footage that has gone all but unnoticed in the 2008 presidential campaign may shed new light into Clinton’s relationship with the company. In this segment from 1991, for example, made public here for the first time by the Center for Public Integrity, Sam Walton, the founder of Wal-Mart, introduces Clinton at the grand re-opening of the company’s original store in Rogers, Arkansas. “Without any question,” he says, “You’ve added more to our board than any person we’ve ever had on that board.”
In the video, Clinton is effusive in her praise of the company that she has now all but disowned. (In 2005 her Senate re-election campaign went so far as to return a $5,000 contribution from Wal-Mart’s political action committee, citing “serious differences with current company practices.”)
“I’m so proud of this company, and everything it represents,” Clinton says in the video clip. “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.”
For now, the video archive–maintained by a production company that for more than two decades recorded many shareholder meetings and other Wal-Mart events–is the clearest window into Clinton’s relationship with the company. According to the Associated Press, Wal-Mart has refused to release minutes of its board meetings during the period she was a paid director of the company.”
Here’s one of the videos: