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    Wawa Recognizes Value in Gov't Relations

    Retailer ups political contribution activity in the past two years.

    WAWA, Pa. -- Wawa Inc. is known for its giving spirit in the communities it serves, and lately it has stepped up its giving when it comes to area politics as well.

    After reviewing New Jersey campaign records, The Star Ledger found that the Pennsylvania-based retailer gave at least $21,800 to candidates seeking state office and to political committees in the state since 2012. That figure is nearly twice as much as its contributions in the previous 27 years combined.

    The increase in campaign contributions comes at a time when Wawa has been expanding its footprint into northern areas of New Jersey. The retailer opened a convenience store in Parsippany in late 2010 and has been opening stores in Morris, Union, Hudson, Bergen and Middlesex counties since 2012.

    From 1985 to 2007, Wawa made $13,400 in donations to New Jersey candidates for governor, state Assembly and state Senate. The company did not make any political donations for the next five years, picking back up in 2012, the newspaper reported.

    Lori Bruce, a spokeswoman for the retailer, said the rise in political donations is in no way related to its expansion.

    "There is no correlation to our North Jersey expansion, nor have we put an emphasis on giving political contributions to North Jersey legislators," Bruce said. "As Wawa continues to grow, in 2011 we made a strategic decision to have government relations become a formalized function."

    Over the last year, the convenience store chain gave $10,000 to the Republican State Committee, which is unofficially controlled by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. It also maxed out Christie's gubernatorial campaign, giving $7,200 to his primary and general election accounts combined. Wawa did not make any donations to the Democratic State Committee or Christie's Democratic opponent last year, former state Sen. Barbara Buono.

    In addition, the retailer gave $500 to last year's four legislative leaders -- Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester), Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr. (R-Union), then-Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-Essex) and Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-Union).

    So far this year, Wawa has contributed at least $1,000. That includes donating $500 to the new Assembly speaker, Vincent Prieto, and giving $500 to a state Senate Republican political action committee, according to The Star Ledger.

    Moving on from the state level, Wawa's federal political action committee gave $65,915 in campaign contributions in the two years leading up to the 2012 election, predominantly to candidates in Pennsylvania, breaking its previous record of $53,545 in 2006.

    "We recognize government relations is becoming an increasingly important part of how we operate and connect with our communities, including communities in the state of New Jersey," Bruce said.

    In comparison, New Jersey-based convenience store retailer QuickChek Corp. contributed $4,000 in the past 10 years, most recently in 2005. 7-Eleven Inc.'s only recent donation, $500, went to Christie's 2010 inaugural committee, the newspaper reported.

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