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Democrats return Walmart gift

The Democratic National Convention is returning $50,000 in gift cards donated by Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which has been accused of bribing Mexican officials to speed expansion there.

The cards were supposed to be used for office supplies. A person with knowledge of the issue said the convention returned the cards at the behest of organized labor.

The decision was welcomed in a statement by Joe Hansen, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union and a critic of the Bentonville, Ark.,-based retailer.

"The allegations of bribery and corruption against Walmart are serious, and there is no way to know whether these contributions are tainted," Hansen said.

A Walmart spokeswoman, Brooke Buchanan, said the gift cards would be donated to a food bank in Charlotte, N.C., site of the Democratic convention in September.

"Walmart has a long history of supporting elected officials and political parties on both sides of the aisle and will continue to have a presence at both Democratic and Republican conventions," Buchanan said in a statement.

The world's largest retailer, Walmart is under investigation by the U.S. Justice Department for allegedly bribing Mexican officials to speed the opening of stores in the early 2000s, according to a person familiar with the probe.

The company said April 21 that it is looking into the allegations.

Unlike previous conventions, the Democrats are trying to fund this year's gathering without million-dollar donations from corporations. Committee officials said the Walmart gift cards did not violate these rules because they were an in-kind donation, not a cash contribution.

Democratic officials have pressed labor unions to fill in the fundraising gap, according to two people familiar with the matter.

The host committee in Charlotte is trying to raise $36.6 million for the gathering, which will run Sept. 4-6.

Republicans have no such ban on corporate donations. The host committee for the party's Aug. 27-30 Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., is taking corporate donations in trying to raise $55 million.