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The Wall Street Journal reports that in numerous markets where Walmart has faced local resistance to its expansion from residents and union groups, it also has been dealing with anti-development campaigns run by an organization called Saint Consulting Group and funded by some of its biggest competitors.

“In scores of cases, large supermarket chains including Supervalu Inc., Safeway Inc. and Ahold NV have retained Saint Consulting to block Wal-Mart, according to hundreds of pages of Saint documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal and interviews with former employees,” the paper writes.

“Saint has jokingly called its staff the ‘Wal-Mart killers.’ P. Michael Saint, the company's founder, declines to discuss specific clients or campaigns. When read a partial list of the company's supermarket clients, he responds that ‘if those names are true, I would say I was proud that some of the largest, most sophisticated companies were so pleased with our success and discretion that they hired us over the years’.”

Here’s how the Journal describes Saint’s way of doing business:

“Saint, a former newspaper reporter and political press secretary, founded his firm 26 years ago. It specializes in using political-campaign tactics—petition drives, phone banks, websites—to build support for or against controversial projects, from oil refineries and shopping centers to quarries and landfills. Over the years, it has conducted about 1,500 campaigns in 44 states. Mr. Saint says about 500 have involved trying to block a development, and most of those have been clandestine.

“For the typical anti-Wal-Mart assignment, a Saint manager will drop into town using an assumed name to create or take control of local opposition, according to former Saint employees. They flood local politicians with calls, using multiple phones to make it appear that the calls are coming from different people, the former employees say.

“They hire lawyers and traffic experts to help derail the project or stall it as long as possible, in hopes that the developer will pull the plug or Wal-Mart will find another location.”

The paper notes that to call Saint a “Walmart killer” might be a bit of hyperbole, considering the extent to which Walmart has grown over the past quarter-century. However, it does seem to be fair to say that Walmart’s efforts have been impeded in a number of cases, and its costs increased, because of all this subterfuge.
KC's View:
All’s fair in love and war.

However...what bothers me about stories like this one is that decisions are being made not on the merits, but on who has the loudest voice and the most muscle. Communities actually end up making decisions based on which side is most effective tactically, rather than on a contextual and strategic long-term plan.

On a larger scale...Somebody said today on “Morning Joe” that the problem with government - on both sides of the aisle - is that everybody is improvising based on short-term political calculations, and nobody is laying out long-term plans that, while they will call for short-term sacrifices that may be considerable, will put the country on a more solid footing in the future.