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According to emails between Walmart and senior officials in the administration of Mayor Vince Gray, the Arkansas retail giant identified one member of the D.C. Council as the swing vote on the living wage bill’s passage from committee: At-Large Councilmember David Grosso. Nina Albert, Walmart’s director of community affairs, wrote to Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development Victor Hoskins and his staff on May 30 that Walmart was “working on Grosso” and hoping to move him into the “no” column to deny a committee majority for the bill.
I called Grosso to ask what Walmart’s “working on” him consisted of.
“They did meet with me twice,” Grosso recalls. “And I have to say, at one point, I was willing to see if the chairman of the committee would hold another hearing, because they had asked me to ask him for that, and I figured, why not? And I did ask Chairman [Vincent] Orange for another hearing, but he didn’t want to do that.”
Walmart’s tactics in these lobbying sessions weren’t any different from the lines the company’s used publicly, Grosso says. “They used the same arguments they used in the public, that this is targeting one store, that they are really good for the city,” he says. “They discussed Skyland and that there’s no other options there. Just the typical arguments. Which I didn’t buy.”
Grosso says Albert was present at the meetings, as well as superlobbyist David Wilmot. At the meeting where Grosso was pressured to schedule another hearing, he says others joined as well, including D.C. Chamber of Commerce CEO Barbara Lang.
But Grosso says Walmart lobbyists should have known better than to waste their time on him. “I would’ve thought they were pretty clear on my position,” he says. “I said, ‘The best thing you can do is never ask me for anything, ’cause I won’t be with you.’ They shouldn’t be confused about that.”
Photo by Darrow Montgomery