Jim Hirni, convicted of conspiracy to commit wire fraud in the Jack Abramoff scandal, is again in the news. South Carolina’s largest newspaper, The State, reported on Thursday that Hirni has been assisting the South Carolina Republican Party with fund raising and organizing events.
Following the publication of our Special Report critical of Wal-Mart, Hirni in 2007 communicated to members of the Washington, DC public policy community that their employment could be negatively affected if they associated with NLPC.
Updated in 2008, the Special Report is titled Wal-Mart Embraces Controversial Causes: Bid to Appease Liberal Interest Groups Will Likely Fail, Hurt Business. Our Report documented changes in the company that became starkly apparent in this Congress when Wal-Mart endorsed both ObamaCare and Cap & Trade legislation.
Hirni’s tactics were both heavy handed and ham handed. I was not surprised when he was subsequently convicted of criminal acts for which he now awaiting sentencing. I am surprised that the South Carolina Republican Party or anyone in the public eye would have anything to do with him, especially since he is reportedly serving as a government informant. When contacted by reporters for The State, GOP officials mostly ran for cover, either minimizing his role or claiming they did not know who he was.
South Carolina Tea Party activists, however, were quick to criticize the GOP, and cited Hirni as evidence of the need for reform.
Hirni’s LinkedIn resume lists various lobbying and legislative jobs but nothing about his conviction. Under his Wal-Mart employment entry, Hirni claims that he was “responsible for the creation of and the management of Wal-Mart’s federal affairs ethics program.”
The Hirni episode was the first of two in which Wal-Mart employed questionable tactics in responding to NLPC’s criticism. The second came in later in 2007 when Wal-Mart had to apologize to NLPC for possible surveillance related to a shareholder proposal that NLPC sponsored at the Wal-Mart annual meeting.
NLPC has since intensified its criticism of Wal-Mart, and its CEO Mike Duke. At the company’s annual meeting in June, I spoke in favor of our shareholder proposal asking for a report on the company’s lobbying priorities. I charged:
Wal-Mart was once synonymous with entrepreneurship and the American dream. Some people now think Wal-Mart supports these Socialist schemes because smaller competitors will be less able to afford the costs of compliance, and will have to go out of business.
Is Wal-Mart Too Liberal? (Newsweek)