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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Clinton's 6 Years at Wal-Mart Left Out at Campaign Stops

NEW YORK -- In 1986, Sam Walton, the founder of Wal-Mart, had a problem. He was under growing pressure from shareholders to appoint a woman to the company's 15-member board of directors.

So Walton turned to a young lawyer who just happened to be married to the governor of Arkansas, where Wal-Mart is based: Hillary Clinton.

Clinton's six-year tenure as a director of Wal-Mart, the nation's largest company, remains a little-known chapter in her closely scrutinized career. And it is little known for a reason. Clinton rarely, if ever, discusses it, leaving her board membership out of her speeches and off her campaign web site.

Fellow board members and company executives say Clinton used her position to champion personal causes, like the need for more women in management and a comprehensive environmental program. On other topics, like Wal-Mart's vehement anti-unionism, for example, she was largely silent, they said.

Her years on the Wal-Mart board, from 1986 to 1992, gave her an unusual tutorial in the ways of U.S. business -- a credential that could serve as an antidote to Republican efforts to portray her as an enemy of free markets and an advocate for big government.

But that education came via a company that the Democratic Party -- and its major ally, organized labor -- has held up as a model of what is wrong with business, with both groups accusing it of offering unaffordable health insurance and mistreating its workers.

So rather than promote her board membership, Clinton is now running from it. But disentangling herself from the company is harder than it may seem.

Despite her criticism, Clinton maintains close ties to Wal-Mart executives through the Democratic Party and the Arkansas business community.

Though she was passionate about issues like gender and sustainability, Clinton largely sat on the sidelines when it came to unions, board members said. Since its founding in 1962, Wal-Mart has fought unionization efforts, employing hard-nosed tactics that have become the subject of legal complaints.

A Clinton spokesman said, "Wal-Mart workers should be able to unionize and bargain collectively."