Walmart’s Mexican bribery scandal is having repercussions in the United States. Though Walmart does not, thus far, face charges under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, it is facing increased scrutiny as it tries to move into or expand in a number of locations. Within the United States, Walmart has increasingly focused on moving into big cities since it has saturated the suburban and rural markets already, and it has spread around contributions to elected officials to ease its way around the political obstacles presented by organized opposition in cities. Now, there’s increased attention to those contributions, and Walmart opponents have an added tool:
In New York, City Councilman Erik Dilan said the housing and buildings committee that he heads will conduct an investigation into a land-use transfer at a Brooklyn site Wal-Mart has been considering. The New York state comptroller, Thomas P. DiNapoli, was already reviewing a contract for the site, a vacant 14-acre lot in East New York owned by the state.
In Los Angeles, opponents of a Wal-Mart site in Chinatown were using the bribery scandal to supplement an appeal they have filed that would rescind the project’s building permit.
In the Boston area, Wal-Mart is eyeing three possible stores, in Somerville and Watertown and in the Roxbury neighborhood. Leaders of the local anti-Wal-Mart coalition are now demanding that the company publicly identify its financial contributions to elected officials, local organizations and community leaders.
It’s unlikely there will ever be a single knockout blow against Walmart, but the company’s practices are so shoddy on so many fronts that it provides a lot of targets to win small battles, to impose costs for the ways it grows by abusing workers, breaking laws or skating right along the edge of law-breaking, and buying its way into new markets.