On Tuesday, Citigroup analyst Deborah Weinswig downgraded Walmart stock from a buy to a hold, reportedly because of fears that the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) would "make it easier for employees to unionize [and] would raise the retail giant’s labor costs and hurt its competitiveness."

It was hard to view this as anything but an overt political act intended to set off panic in a fragile economic climate (and an an attempt to bulldoze Blanche Lincoln), since the bill hadn’t even been introduced yet and its passage is far from assured. In fact, not much has changed since February 19th when Weinswig gave Walmart a "9.5 out of 10" rating.

You can listen to Weinswig rave about the stock on the embedded CNBC clip.

Pulitzer Prize winner David Cay Johnston compared it to bond ratings agencies who threaten to downgrade bonds just before state regulators are about to take votes on utility rate hikes. "None dare call it "interference in the market," he said.

Now, Sam Stein reports today that Weinswig participated yesterday in a private Citi conference call led by a lobbyist from the US Chamber of Commerce to "build opposition to the Employee Free Choice Act."

Yes, you read that right. The Citigroup analyst who downgraded Walmart over fears about Employee Free Choice proceeded to participate in an anti-EFCA conference call led by the Chamber of Commerce.

Citi has received $50 billion in taxpayer bailout money. They, like Bank of America, are trying to pretend that there’s some kind of iron wall that prevents bailout money from being used to lobby against Employee Free Choice–as if it isn’t the bailout money that is keeping the doors open in the first place.

The hubris and the conflicts of interest here are pretty gobsmacking.

Yet another example of why we need Congress to demand transparency before shoveling any more money into the corrupt banking system.

Please join us at 5:30 pm ET today for a live chat with David Cay Johnston on the need for bank bailout transparency. And sign the petition here: No More Dough Til We Know Where It Goes.

Jane Hamsher

Jane Hamsher

Jane is the founder of Firedoglake.com. Her work has also appeared on the Huffington Post, Alternet and The American Prospect. She’s the author of the best selling book Killer Instinct and has produced such films Natural Born Killers and Permanent Midnight. She lives in Washington DC.
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