According to the Wall Street Journal, a consulting firm has made its own cottage industry out of preventing Walmart from moving into communities, working on behalf of other large grocery chains and passing off the opposition as a grassroots movement.
Says the Journal:
"For the typical anti-Wal-Mart assignment, a (Saint Consulting Group) 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."
"Safeway, a national chain based in Pleasanton, Calif., retained Saint to thwart Wal-Mart Supercenters in more than 30 towns in California, Oregon, Washington and Hawaii in recent years, according to a Saint project list and interviews with former employees. Former Saint employees say much of the work consisted of training Safeway's unionized workers to fight land-use battles, including how to speak at public hearings."
It's worth noting that Tracy's Walmart project will move ahead after a lawsuit aimed at the to-be-expanded giant was dropped for lack of follow-through on behalf of the plaintiffs.
Keep in mind, this kind of thing is typically totally legal. It's just further proof that while citizen-based movements sometimes really are citizen-based, they can also be used as tools by vested interests with deep pockets.