The Citizens United case opened the door for corporations to directly spend big money on political campaigns — and now the Target company is finding that actually doing so is posing a risk in its home state of Minnesota, where the company is supporting Republican Tom Emmer for governor and facing a backlash from the LGBT community.
Target donated $150,000 to a group called MN Forward, a pro-business group backed by the state Chamber of Commerce, and which is actively supporting the very conservative Emmer. As a result, they’ve come under fire from gay rights organizations, due to Emmer’s support for a proposed state constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, and his close associations with the religious right.
“This is inconsistent with their values to support the only candidate for governor who stands up for discrimination and divisiveness in Minnesota,” said Monica Meyer, interim executive director of OutFront Minnesota.
Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel has explained that the company’s support for Emmer is based purely on economic issues. “Target has a history of supporting organizations and candidates, on both sides of the aisle, who seek to advance policies aligned with our business objectives, such as job creation and economic growth,” wrote Steinhafel. “It is also important to note that we rarely endorse all advocated positions of organizations or candidates we support, and we do not have a political or social agenda.”
Steinhafel also pointed out that the company’s policies have supported gay rights, and continue to do so. They provide domestic-partner benefits for gay employees, and they also sponsor Twin Cities Pride, a group that organizes the state’s annual gay pride events.
Here’s an ad from MN Forward, boasting that Emmer will get government out of the way of business and thus grow jobs:
One Minnesota consumer, the pro-gay rights Randi Reitan of Eden Prairie, made a YouTube video of her personal protest. Reitan returned $226.32 worth of items to a Target store, and cut up her store credit card, explaining that she wanted equality for her gay son — equality which she says Emmer won’t support. As of this writing, the video has received over 130,000 views.
For his part, Emmer has criticized such boycotters. “The sad part to me is, I thought we were supposed to be able to exercise our rights of free speech,” said Emmer. “We’re supposed to celebrate the fact that we have different perspectives. And it doesn’t seem like that’s what this is about. This seems to be more personal and we’ve got to get over that.
Fun bonus fact: Target’s previous corporate incarnation was Dayton-Hudson — the century-old family business of Democratic former U.S. Sen. Mark Dayton, who is now running for governor himself in the contested Dem primary to face Emmer in the general.