Earlier this month, a flack named Stephanie Harnett—who worked for Mercury Public Affairs, and whose client was Wal-Mart—was caught posing as a reporter to sneak into an anti-Wal-Mart event in Los Angeles. She was fired soon after we published the story, and both Wal-Mart and Mercury decried her actions. The firm said that Harnett was not acting on their orders. (Later, a different former PR person who worked on Wal-Mart's behalf told us that she had been instructed to use similar tactics by her own firm.)
Wal-Mart is trying to open a new store in LA's Chinatown area. Local labor groups, among others, are challenging the store's permitting. It's a fight with big stakes for Wal-Mart, as it goes right to the heart of the company's strategy of expanding in large cities. And now, one labor group says that an employee of a PR firm working for Wal-Mart actually posed as a reporter in order to infiltrate one of their meetings.