But the real reason I oppose him is his wife’s deep connections to WAL-MART. Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun-Times published an article about this highly controversial connection in May. According to Sweet, Michelle Obama is no longer connected to the company. But this was not a decision Michelle Obama made on her own volition. Following the lead of her husband’s vague campaign, Michelle Obama quit the company that ties her deeply to WAL-MART. According to Lynn Sweet,
Michelle Obama resigned Tuesday from the board of TreeHouse Foods Inc., a Wal-Mart vendor, eight days after husband and White House hopeful Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) said he would not shop at the anti-union store.
I guess Obama’s attempt to pander to AFL-CIO union voers in Trenton, NJ, created a conflict with one of the Obama family’s sources of income.
Michelle Obama sat on the Board of this Wal-Mart friendly company since June 27, 2005, or just a few months after Obama was elected to the US Senate. Michelle Obama, also a VP of The University of Chicago Hospitals in charge of “community outreach,” did not have experience in the private sector before serving on the Board of the WAL-MART ally. In fact, she chose to pursue the Board position in order to gain experience in the private sector, and this experience was made available to her after her husband was elected to the US Senate. According to
the London Telegraph,
[S]he has just been re-elected to the board of an Illinois food-processing company, a position she took up two years ago to gain experience of the private sector.
She was reelected to the lucrative post on April 19, 2007, or three months after Barack Obama began actively campaigning for the Presidency.
But how did she obtain the position? According to Lynn Sweet, she undertook the position with the WAL-MART ally in order to gain experience in the private sector. Here is a summary of her experience before serving on the Board of a WAL-MART ally:
A Harvard-trained lawyer, Michelle Obama began her career as an attorney at the Chicago law firm of Sidley Austin, and later went to work at Chicago City Hall and at the non-profit group Public Allies, a leadership program for young adults.
And she holds the sinecure of part-time VP at the University of Chicago Hospitals while working for the WAL-MART friendly vendor. But if she had no experience in the private sector, why was she elected to the post? Is that not a risk for the company? Or did the company want a link to a US Senator?
Obama, according to Lynn Sweet and to other who reported on his statements before the AFL-CIO in Trenton, NJ, said the following:
On May 14, during an AFL-CIO forum in Trenton, N.J., Sen. Obama was asked about Wal-Mart. “I won’t shop there,” he said. Chief rival Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) served on the Wal-Mart board between 1986 and 1992.
He also made the these pronouncements, which are reproduced in the London Telegraph story:
As the Illinois senator prepared to join the presidential fray late last year, he threw his weight behind the union-backed campaign against Wal-Mart. He declared that there was a “moral responsibility to stand up and fight” the company and “force them to examine their own corporate values”.
But how can he denounce WAL-MART’s values and claim he would never shop there when his wife has over $100,000 of salary, stocks and benefits from a company that engages in very friendly practices with WAL-MART? According to CBS2 Chicago,
The company, which supplies retail grocery chains with pickles, nondairy powdered creamer and other products, said Wal-Mart was its largest customer last year, according to an SEC filing.
In other words, TreeHouse Foods and WAL-MART are close business partners.
Now the Obamas have not provided compelling answers when asked about this egregious conflict of interest. Here is Michelle Obama:
Barack is gonna say what needs to be said, and it’s not going to, you know, necessarily matter … what I’m doing if it’s not the right thing,” she said. “He’s going to do what’s right for … the country. He’s going to speak out. And he’s going to, you know, implement his views as he sees fit. … I see no conflict in that.”
According to Michelle Obama, her affiliation with WAL-MART through the sinecure she held at TreeHouse Foods, does not “necessarily matter.” In fact, she “sees no conflict in it,” as Barack will “say what needs to be said” in order to win the Presidency.
But the cynicism does not stop there. Here is Barack Obama in the London Telegraph:
Sen Obama’s campaign team and Mrs Obama’s spokesman did not respond to requests by The Sunday Telegraph for comment. But the senator previously told Crain’s Chicago Business magazine that, while his views on corporate reform and social justice remained the same regardless of what happens at Treehouse, “Michelle and I have to live in the world and pay taxes and pay for our kids and save for retirement”.
So for Obama it is just a bunch of words: he and Michelle can profit from WAL-MART through a company that is one of its biggest allies, for they have to take care of their own.
That Obama’s opposition to WAL-MART is just a bunch of words is admitted by a spokesman the Obama campaign managed to find to defend this conflict of interest. Chris Kofinis, Communications Director of WakeUpWalMart.org, just one of many activist groups who oppose WAL-MART, made the following excuses for Obama:
“Many companies do business with Wal-Mart,” said Chris Kofinis, communications director for WakeUpWalMart.com, a project of the United Food and Commercial Workers union. “The difference is whether one stays silent on Wal-Mart’s negative business practices or not. Sen. Obama has not stayed silent, and he should be applauded for that.”
So for Kofinis, who ostensibly opposes WAL-MART, endorses doing business with WAL-MART. And for him, mere words are enough. Since the Obama campaign’s opposition to WAL-MART is just words, I imagine Kofinis, who is just one of many critics, and not necessarily the most effective critic, is satisfied with these mere words. But what about the $100,000 the Obama family now possesses as a result of their collusion with WAL-MART?
It is significant that the Obama’s view opposition to WAL-MART as so many words to be uttered during a campaign. Obama is from Chicago, and the Chicago City Council voted to force stores such as WAL-MART to pay living wages, not minimum wages, if they were to build facilities in the City of Chicago. The vote on the Big Box Ordinance occurred in late July 2006. Richard Daley vetoed it on September 11, 2006, when Bush was visiting Chicag
o. This was Daley’s first veto after serving as Mayor of Chicago in 17 years. All this occurred while Michelle Obama sat on the Board of the WAL-MART friendly company.
Barack Obama endorsed Daley for Mayor in January 2007. And Michelle Obama was still on the Board of Tree House Foods when this endorsement occurred. And Obama made this endorsement despite all the reports on cronyism and corruption in City Hall. In fact, Obama ran into trouble with Daley in 2005 after making comments about Daley’s corruption.
Why the reverse on his stance on corruption? Did it have anything to do with WAL-MART, the Big Box Ordinance and his wife’s affiliation with a WAL-MART friendly company? And if Obama is so vocal in his opposition to WAL-MART, why endorse a Mayor who vetoed a bill that would force WAL-MART to change its corporate policies,? Is this not what Obama says they should do when engaging with AFL-CIO voters? Or is it all just words? Or is it just words in the right place at the right time? To quote Michelle Obama again:
Barack is gonna say what needs to be said, and it’s not going to, you know, necessarily matter…
Indeed, it will not necessarily matter, for the Obamas have their $100,000, and WAL-MART has an ally in Chicago City Hall.