Target Corp Comes Under Fire for Campaign Contributions

Gay rights supporters call for boycott of Target amid allegations the corporation supports homophobic hate speech.

An Eden Prairie woman vents her anger at Target over their political contributions

The first controversy in Minnesota over the Supreme Court ruling allowing Corporations to donate money to political candidates is under way. Target Corporation’s contributions are linked by some gay rights activists to an anti-gay marriage Gubernatorial candidate who is associated with a Christian rock band that lauds the execution of homosexuals in Muslim countries. Target, headquartered in Bloomington,  says its donations to political candidates are based on economic considerations and points to its history of supporting GLBT causes. A Minneapolis GLBT Pagan says that Target is being wrongly portrayed as hostile towards diversity issues.

Prior to the January Supreme Court ruling, Minnesota, along with 24 other states, prohibited political donations made from company and union funds. The ruling left in place state prohibitions against companies giving directly to the candidates, but funds can go to independent groups supporting the candidates. Since the ruling, businesses and other groups have been deciding if the possible benefits outweigh the risks associated with publicly jumping into the political fray.

To understand how Target, a corporation long recognized by the gay community as a supportive employer, became a target of gay organizations you need to follow the money trail.

Target, along with other Minnesota corporations, gave a $150,000 contribution to MN Forward, a group who is running ads to support Tom Emmer in his bid for Minnesota Governor. Mr. Emmer, in addition to promising to cut both taxes and spending, is a supporter of marriage being limited to one man and one woman. Mr. Emmer has also spoken favorably about and purchased $250 in tickets for a Christian rock group in his district named You Can Run But You Can’t Hide. The frontman for this group, Bradlee Dean, recently angered many with his comments on a local radio show. “This just shows you they themselves are upholding the laws that are even in the Bible of the Judeo-Christian God, but they seem to be more moral than even the American Christians do, because these people are livid about enforcing their laws. They know homosexuality is an abomination.”

Dean has since claimed his statements were taken out of context and the Emmer campaign has distanced themselves from the group. “I met Bradlee and Jake a couple of times. I think they’re good people. I don’t know what they said. I don’t know, wasn’t there, haven’t heard it. Some folks have told me in the last 12 hours that somebody might ask about it. This is a non-issue. I don’t condone violence and would never support it. When somebody says something that’s strong and suggests that, that’s not what I’m about.”

When asked to comment on their donation to MN Forward, Target spokeswoman Lena Michaud says Target chose Minnesota Forward because the group’s mission is to elect candidates from both parties who are focused on making “economic growth a priority.” Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel, in an email sent out to employees says the company doesn’t have a social agenda or necessarily agree with all the positions of candidates it supports. “Target’s support of the GLBT community is unwavering, and inclusiveness remains a core value of our company.” Target has been a top supporter of the Twin Cities Pride Parade and other GLBT events. Target has also earned a 100% from Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index.

In an interview with the PNC, Missy A, a Minneapolis Pagan who works for Target, said the company is being treated unfairly in this controversy. “Target is a excellent place for a lesbian to work. Unlike most every other employer, they offer full benefits to my partner and have for years. This is not a company that takes its commitment to diversity lightly.”

She goes on to say, “In addition to them being very open to seeing my wife as my wife they are inclusive about my religion. When I talked to my supervisor about taking Wiccan holidays off, her response was to ask how Target could accommodate me and to ask for more information on my religion so they could be more sensitive to my needs. Does that sound like like a company that should be boycotted? And this thing with connecting Target with this band? It’s just stupid.”

When asked about how she feels about the donation to MN Forward and their support of Emmer, Missy said, “I’m not real happy about it. I can see why, from a pure business sense, we did it, but I don’t like it. Of course, there isn’t a candidate for Governor who does support gay marriage and I like that even less.”

Although her support for her employer remains strong, she does understand why people are upset with Target, “I think people should send emails and call Target if they think we shouldn’t have donated to MN Forward. Tell them what you think. But I’m asking people to calm down and think before they decide to boycott Target. If you [boycott] you are withholding money from an employer who really does walk the talk when it comes to supporting diversity in the workplace and the community.”



Editors note – while Missy A is open with her employer about her religion, she is not “out” to the general public due to concerns about how it would affect her wife’s employment situation. For this reason we assigned her a random name for this interview.

8 thoughts on “Target Corp Comes Under Fire for Campaign Contributions

  1. Snoozepossum says:

    Excellent article! It’s nice to see journalism that prioritizes doing your homework and thinking over just reacting.

    I think people also need to consider that sometimes you have no “good or bad” choice; sometimes it’s just picking the lesser of two evils. If there is no pro-GLBT candidate, then pick the one who has the least strikes against him in other areas. If you find that option unacceptable, then get out there and make an acceptable candidate happen.

  2. Kim says:

    They had the option of not donating to anyone. The new law saying corporations can donate is horrible. This is an example of why.

  3. Ruadhan says:

    The way I understand this though is that Target technically gave a political donations broker company a sum of money to dole out to political interest candidates and groups, without being specific any further than “pro-business”.

    Then it got out where this money went to and Target issued a sort of non-apology apology stating that this doesn’t affect their interests in employment diversity, and then KABOOM.

    It’s still pretty early for me, so if anybody wants the links I’ve found, give me a couple hours to both wake up and find them; but if somebody else is feeling impatient and industrious, it’s over at the RPG.Net forum in their “Tangency Open” section (you have to be signed-in to read that one) — just F3 for “Target”.

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