By  on October 21, 2008

In the past, H. Lee Scott, president and chief executive officer of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., has argued the retailer should have a voice in shaping critical national issues since so many people — 136 million a week — shop at its stores. Working-class Americans, who are deeply concerned about the economy, are an important demographic in this presidential election, and represent Wal-Mart’s core customer. It’s no surprise, then, that the Bentonville, Ark.-based giant has seized upon the election as a means of connecting with its customers and associates and showing the next American president its clout.

Wal-Mart on Monday launched a video-based voter guide on its Web sites with Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain discussing their views on key issues. The company also on Monday began public service announcements on its Wal-Mart in-store television network promoting the candidate videos. In late September, the company launched a voter registration campaign with PSAs on the in-store network to encourage customers and its 1.4 million U.S. associates to register and vote in the Nov. 4 elections. The PSAs are running through Election Day.

A voter registration portal on its corporate Web site, walmartstores.com/vote, bowed on Sept. 11 and the company has put posters with voter registration information at its nearly 600 Sam’s Club locations.

Of course, Wal-Mart is no stranger to politics or the controversy they can bring. The retailer created a furor in the summer when it was charged with trying to influence its store managers and supervisors at company meetings not to vote for Obama, who supports passage of the Employee Free Choice Act, which the retailer opposes. Wal-Mart denied the allegations, saying the meetings were held simply to brief store management on the act.

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