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One Obama Conflict of Interest Avoided

By Chuck Sudo in Food on May 23, 2007 6:30PM

2007_05_michelle_obama.jpgBy now it comes as no surprise to followers of politics that one of the most valuable assets in Senator Barack Obama's presidential campaign is his wife Michelle. Her demeanor, accessibility and professional pedigree are invaluable to her husband's aspirations. As the Senator's campaign has shifted into higher gear, Mrs. Obama has gradually trained her energies on helping her husband win the Democratic nomination next year. She's taken a leave of absence from her job as Vice President for Community and External Affairs for the University of Chicago Hospitals. But it was her resignation from the board of directors at Treehouse Foods yesterday that may help her husband further in the campaign.

2007_05_treehouse.jpgThe Westchester-based food services company includes among its clients Wal-Mart, which is Treehouse's largest customer for pickles and peppers. The press release announcing Mrs. Obama's resignation cited the "increased demands on her time." It's unspoken, but Treehouse's business relationship with Wal-Mart surely played a part in her decision. On the other side of the pond, Sen. Obama is already being branded a "hypocrite" for blasting Wal-Mart's hardline anti-union policies (if not is contribution to the decline of Western civilization), while his wife earned $51,200 in salary and 7,500 Treehouse stock options last year from one of Wal-Mart's biggest suppliers. It won't be long before conservative wingnuts and Obama's rivals for the Democratic nomination begin to use this information against him. One candidate who should hold her tongue is Senator Hillary Clinton, who once served on Wal-Mart's board of directors while her husband was Governor of Arkansas.

If only all those pesky ties between the Obamas and Tony Rezko could be tied up so neatly.