Voter Registration Group With GOP Ties Banned From Tenn. Wal-Marts

A voter registration group with Republican ties has been banished from Wal-Mart stores in Tennessee for failing to meet the retailer's standards of nonpartisanship and may soon be shut out of stores in California and Nevada, the retailer's spokesman said Tuesday.

Liberty Consultants wanted to register Wal-Mart shoppers in seven traditionally Republican suburban counties around Nashville. But the request was denied after the company's owner, Gary Thompson, acknowledged to Wal-Mart that he had been hired by Tempe, Arizona-based Sproul & Associates.

Headed by Nathan Sproul, a former Christian Coalition activist and executive director of the Arizona Republican Party, Sproul & Associates was paid $7.9 million (euro6.17 million) by the Republican National Committee for consulting and voter registration drives in the 2004 election cycle, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.

Wal-Mart's legal department was in the process of alerting California and Nevada stores about Liberty Consultants' contract with Sproul, Alpert said.

Sproul's canvassers focused on signing up Republican voters in key battleground states in 2004. Former canvassers came forward in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Nevada and Oregon to say they were told to register only Republicans and to walk away from people who said they intended to vote for Democrat John Kerry. Some said completed Democratic registration forms were thrown out or ripped up.

Sproul has denied any wrongdoing. He did not return a phone call from The Associated Press about the Wal-Mart ban.