Friday, July 23rd, 2010

Real America: Why Target Supports Tom Emmer

target pride rainbow
As we reported this week in our profile of Minnesota gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer, a PAC called MN Forward raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in just a few weeks. MN Forward is using that money to run ads in support of Emmer, a Republican.

Target, long headquartered in Minneapolis, was one of the four corporate patrons of MN Forward. They forked over $100,000 cash and another $50,000 of in-kind goods and services. It's an odd move for a corporation that expresses support for gay rights. And it's your chance to stop whining and do something.

Progressive compared to its peers, Target extends domestic-partner benefits to gay and lesbian employees. It has also openly sponsored Twin Cities Pride and other gay and lesbian events in the state. Target puts its name on Minnesota AIDS Walk, a move that many corporations, worried about religious consumer terrorism, are far too cowardly to even consider.

Target's been deservedly rewarded, receiving a top rating of 100 percent on the 2009 and 2010 Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index and Best Places to Work for LGBT Equality, the 2009 Rainbow Families Award and the 2009 Lavender Pride Award-and a reputation amongst the LGBT community as a "good" big box retailer.

Target's support for MN Forward and Emmer is surprising. Emmer's a candidate who isn't just indifferent about gay rights; he's outright hostile. Despite claiming to be for freedom and personal liberty, Emmer's name appears on the author line of constitutional legislature "protecting" traditional marriage.

Target says its support is for candidates who will "directly effect the company's retail agenda." And that's likely true. But Target's backing of a pro-corporation candidate (who might not even win) for short term tax-break profit in exchange for permanently undoing a reputation its worked hard to nurture-well, that's not a good idea. Activists are already upset.

I reached out to Target and gave it the opportunity to explain its actions, speak to the confused gay community and officially denounce Emmer's positions. Target stalled all afternoon, drafting a comment, and finally offered the following (unedited) statement:

"Target is proud to call Minnesota and communities across the country home. To ensure economic growth in those communities it is critically important to be able to provide jobs, serve guests, support communities and deliver on our commitment to shareholders.

Target supports causes and candidates based strictly on issues that affect our retail and business interests. In fact, Target's Federal PAC contributions year-to-date are very balanced between Republicans and Democrats, and we work collaboratively with legislators and officials at all points on the political spectrum.

Target fosters civic engagement through a wide variety of nonpartisan efforts aimed at enhancing team member and citizen participation in the political process. We encourage team members and citizens to engage in civic activities in the ways that are most meaningful to them, as we believe that engaged communities are healthier and stronger communities.

Target is proud of the diversity of its team, and we greatly value the wide range of perspectives offered by all of our team members. It is this diversity that creates our unique and inclusive corporate culture while helping our company remain relevant and competitive."

For the record, Target's statement does not even mention Emmer's name.

By approving direct influence on elections in Citizens United, the Supreme Court handed power to corporations. But at the same time, when they do so, corporations abandon their old black-ops approach and make themselves unusually transparent. This actually puts the true power in the hand of the consumer.

So: "Target supports causes and candidates based strictly on issues that affect our retail and business interests."

Target is giving every American, nearly literally, a vote with his or her dollar. So, self-respecting progressive Americans who profess to support the gay community, it's put up or shut-up time; here is your chance to go beyond complaining about the Citizens United ruling and actually act to define what a strict "business interest" is.

Citizens United is counting on you doing nothing.

Abe Sauer votes with his dollars and his votes. Image of official 2007 Target Pride temporary tattoo via Minnesota Public Radio.

96 Comments / Post A Comment

Fred A. Brieden (#5,158)

Abe, are you telling me to go shop at Wal-Mart? Cause that just ain't happening. Emmer is a bummer though, agreed.

Abe Sauer (#148)

He's more than a "bummer." All of the other gubernatorial candidates, from Dayton to Entenza to Horner to Kelliher have all said they would sign gay marriage legislation. So support for Emmer is support for the ONLY MN candidate against gay equality. And it's not just marriage, Emmer has authored legislation that would have a bill to define a child's parents as a "mother and father" which would possibly remove the legal benefits and protections of gay parenthood in MN. That's not only hostile to progress, that;s actively regressive. He has also fought "partner" language in wrongful death legislation.

Also,Tom Emmer donated to, and posed with, a Christian rock band that supported the practice of executing gays in some foreign countries. Emmer's campaign actually gave the band OVER the legal limit.

THIS is the candidate Target supports.

sigerson (#179)

Coincidentally, I just bought a rainbow kiddie pool from Target.

Morbo (#1,288)

Did Target contribute anything to the Democratic candidate, and how much?

If anything, this might be "hedging your bets", which all corporations do, especially in their home domicile.

If I have to choose the lesser of two evils, I'll go to Target over Wal-Mart.

Or shop more at Pamida. Yes, that's it. I'll go to Pamida.

DoctorDisaster (#1,970)

$150,000 in a race for governor is a big fucking hedge.

Morbo (#1,288)

Not really, when you consider the amount of corporate tax you pay over the four years of an administration. If you don't give, you'll be the first on the "hike" list, in the effort to close the fiscal gap.

150k is nothing.

On a side note, The Democrats are shooting themselves in the foot here. They're running Mark Dayton, whose like an Upper Midwest Dubya. Great grand-dad founded Dayton's department Stores, which later opened Target. Yale educated, recovering alcoholic – hell, he was even in Dubya's frat. His best move was to step down, and let Minnesota have a decent senator in Amy Klobuchar.

Can Target give to this candidate or his PAC legally, considering the Dayton family are probably still have some skin in the game?

Abe Sauer (#148)

This shrugged shoulders "it's Target or Wal-Mart" may be an acceptable personal justification for dismissal but it's not a valid argument.

Agreed Dayton though.

DoctorDisaster (#1,970)

Final fundraising totals for MN won't be revealed until next week, but this week certain candidates are bragging that they've topped $1 million. So this "hedge" is 15 percent of a respectable grand total? I think not.

Abe Sauer (#148)

Anyway, forget Dayton and check in on Margaret Kelliher.

Morbo (#1,288)

No dismissal here. I'm disappointed Target gave money to this idiot, and already wrote my dissent after reading your piece, telling them that the shares that I own will be used to vote against every board member that comes up for renewal.

Target's lost some of its sheen as a fair wage employer on some of the hour-cutting activities they have done in the downturn. Still, compared to Wal-Mart, and some of the bat-shit crazy policies they support, an $150k hedge is an acceptable risk to make sure Target can still be around to hire GLBT employees.

Morbo (#1,288)

15% max…if they raised more than a million. And when you are one of the largest corporations in the state….that isn't too outrageous.

Morbo (#1,288)

Kelliher- now there's a decent candidate. She's like a parralel dimension Sarah Palin!! (which means we live in the evil dimension) Rasmussen shows that if she wins, shes already up 40-35 on Emmers on a head to head battle.

Christ, can Minnesota export some of those candidates down here to Illinois?

Abe Sauer (#148)

You can have leslie davis (who's actually a great guy) and whose "Davis Money Plan" will "enable state-chartered community banks (not federal banks like Wells Fargo and US Bank) to create debt-free money for the construction and maintenance of all state, county and city, roads and bridges." He insists it's constitutional.

Morbo (#1,288)

Deal!! We'll give you Mark Kirk in return. He's great at telling stories, especially about his own military service.

wb (#2,214)

@Morbo You still have a Pamida!?!?

Morbo (#1,288)


Actually, I'm in Chicago…no Pamidas, Shopkos, or PigglyWigglys. Just shady corner dollar stores, interespersed with occasional Target.

But there are still 220-something Pamidas left. I thought ShopKo would have closed them all after the merger.

Legs Sadovsky (#6,269)

@Morbo Candidates still have campaign finance limitations, and every state is different. Citizens only applies to Federal campaigns, but state laws will probably be adjusted accordingly..there's already rumblings here in California from a new commissioner. California has more election laws than most states, and our campaign finance laws predate federal ones thanks to then-Secretary of State Jerry Brown, but my understanding is that most states follow federal guidelines with a much smaller contribution limit, whereas California actually has a higher limit for statewide campaigns, and more disclosure requirements, although corporations can do whatever the fuck they want..they just have to file the right paperwork.

Post-Citizens corporations can give unlimited amounts to PACs that campaign in direct support or opposition of candidates. Before they could only give to issues campaigns, so for candidates they could have a "concerned citizens" group or "taxpayers" committee to astroturf. The most well known federal one is Swiftboat Veterans for Truth..they could use as much money as they want to be anti-Kerry, but they couldn't come out and be pro-Bush.

Now they can be pro-Bush or pro this Emmer asshole, ad put as much money into it as they want…so look forward to your state's elections being as fun as California's.

Evan Hilbert (#2,724)

My mom really likes The Gays and Target popcorn. This will be devastating.

HiredGoons (#603)

IKEA, unsurprisingly, has steadfastly remained neutral.

petejayhawk (#1,249)

Yeah, but the IKEA platform is a real pain in the ass to assemble.

I hacked it with a PröChusin set, a couple of Gä Reenbos, and a piece of strong KlimatKuhlin legislation. Now I have a place to do my scrapbooking.

KarenUhOh (#19)

You might be interested to note who was Norm Coleman's largest contributor for the past decade or so:

Abe Sauer (#148)

Well aware. Coleman was no friend to anything but rich white people.

Abe Sauer (#148)

Also, it's noteworthy w/r/t Coleman. Target gave him $250,000 OVER 8 YEARS. They're already closing in on that with Emmer in one single donation.

synchronia (#3,755)

Are there any MN candidates who support Target's corporate interests and also support the LGBT community? If not, you might say Target's donation to a pro-corporate (and then also anti-LGBT) candidate falls under the principle of double effect… unless of course you think Target should be putting the LGBT issues first, but that seems like a pretty high standard for a corporation. On the other hand, I do agree that in general equating pro-corporate with supporting tax breaks is overly simplistic and ignores the long view.

fiveoneeight (#872)

Can you tell me if the 50/50 bodega on 2nd ave. is pro gay rights? I'm need to get toilet paper soon; all I have left to use is last Sunday's Style Section.

hockeymom (#143)

I'm curious how much money Target is going to give Mark Dayton.
Dayton is an interesting character. Unapologetic lib, running for governor. Has been in and out of politics for decades.
His family also essentially created Target corporation (as an off-shoot of Dayton Hudson department stores).
He probably has about a billion shares of Target stock.
Abe, do you know?

Abe Sauer (#148)

Well, Target won't give that much directly to any candidate. They can't. It will all go to PACs. Dayton doesn't need the money anyway. His relatives have already contributed (to PACs supporting him like Win MN) nearly $1 ALONE. Dayton's ex even gave money to his campaign. Ha!. Remember Dayton's ex wife is a Rockefeller heir, so…

Morbo (#1,288)

Dayton Family is not one of the fifty top shareholders of voting common stock in Target. No Dayton has been on the board since 1983.

Abe Sauer (#148)

$1 million that is.

Art Yucko (#1,321)

UP + Fuck where am I supposed to shop now

kneetoe (#1,881)

Surely there's ONE thing this Emmer guy supports that we like. Let's find it and focus on that, ok?

hockeymom (#143)

Well, he does like hockey. So there's that.

kneetoe (#1,881)

Works for me, hockeymom.

Please don't let this happen with Trader Joe's. I will live without Target, but not TJ's.

Morbo (#1,288)

TJ's owned by Aldi's and the reclusive German Albrecht brothers. No one knows much about them, except they play golf and collect typewriters.

KarenUhOh (#19)

Aldi VERY VERY VERY conservative ownership. Makes Sam Walton look like Trotsky.

Art Yucko (#1,321)

-ahem- let me tell you, and I say this with something between 1st-2nd hand intimate knowledge (let's not get into that right now):

Sam Walton really wasn't that conservative IRL/when he was alive. His personal, political beliefs were very, very populist/Depression-Era leftist bordering on socialist.

Hard to believe, but take my word for it!

kneetoe (#1,881)

Typewriters is where I draw the line.

KarenUhOh (#19)

Art, my hand is third, from a 1ster, and I would agree based on anecdotal evidence.

Theo Albrecht founded the trust that owns TJ's, but the business is not supposed to be under his direction. Aldi US is run by Karl, I don't know anything more than that.

SquarePeg (#1,098)

Target is heavily courting the populace and City/County government of San Francisco, in a bid to open their first two stores in here.

I'll be forwarding these links to people I know in the progressive community.

Thanks, Abe!

SourCapote (#4,872)

yeah they are trying to put one in my city, 30 mins north of san fran looks like its going through

Multiphasic (#411)

I thought the 101 corridor in Marin basically existed as a DMZ to keep all this crap out of both the City and the Country. I mean, that hideous faux-rustic beast in Novato is just screaming for a Target to be installed there, so as to better encourage the terrorists to hate us.

Legs Sadovsky (#6,269)

Agreed! Both Marin & SF Counties have stringent slow-growth & anti-big box laws. I don't know a ton about Marin's, but in SF, they're trying to go into the failed Sony Metreon at 4th and Mission and I think in the old Mervyn's on Geary, so on top of it, they're going to get around local laws by saying they're putting in affordable groceries & household goods in mixed-income, transit-oriented neighborhoods…which isn't untrue, but this makes me a lot less sympathetic. Ugh, dump a bunch of money into defeating eMeg, Target.

keisertroll (#1,117)


Multiphasic (#411)

If you mean "turn all of the country into Ventura, CA by 2010", then up with Target indeed.

Jasmine (#8)

Maybe you could edit the post to add an e-mail address that one might write to if they had some spare time today and wanted to express their outrage/give constructive criticism/etc…

Abe Sauer (#148)

Target CEO
Target PR

Head of Target Community Giving Kristen Jones

petejayhawk (#1,249)

There's an email form on their website. I used that, under the "community involvement" header.

KarenUhOh (#19)

Abe, link appreciated; message sent.

Jasmine (#8)


Juan Anon (#1,175)

If bottom-line corporate interests are Target's sole concern in making political contributions, then perhaps Target needs to see that gay and lesbian customers will choose to shop elsewhere. Letters expressing such can be sent to Target's corporate address:
Gregg W. Steinhafel, CEO
Target Corporation
1000 Nicollet Mall
Minneapolis, MN 55403

petejayhawk (#1,249)

It's not just gay and lesbian customers that will be shopping elsewhere, BTW.

Juan Anon (#1,175)

Thanks for pointing that out. I'm revising my letter to indicate this. I'm not sure if the following is the best way to reach corporate offices via email, but here's a link to an online web form:

Juan Anon (#1,175)

Ooops, I see that Abe provided the email addresses of the CEO and the Head of Target Community Giving.

hockeymom (#143)

Well, there's always Matt Entenza.

MollyculeTheory (#4,519)

Literally in the middle of reading this, I get a text message from Mr. Theory: "New Target at 116th/1st ave opening Sunday!" Conflicted.

NinetyNine (#98)

Wait: a large corporation might only be playing to interest groups to attract dollars? OH. MY. GOD. This means that one day a year Disney when gays are welcomed might just be some tokenism to maximize profits!!!

The last time I went to Disneyland with some friends I noticed lots of hot men. I thought, wow what's with all the hot divorced dads. Turns out it was gay day.

Abe Sauer (#148)

While that would be the immediate, glossed over view of the sarcastic nihilist, that's not really it at all. What's so frustrating about Target's lack of foresight here is that it has been such a champion in other areas that are not just about "attracting dollars." You think Target doesn't take heat and get boycott threats when it puts up a huge booth and splashes its name all over Twin Cities Pride or the AIDS walk? One would expect Target to understand the longer term ramifications of alienating a community it's worked hard to impress. The retailer seems to understand this when it comes to extending partner benefits to gay employees… that's an economic and political cost but, in the long run, not only is it the right thing to do but it attracts the best talent. And, BTW, bravo on classifying the gay rights movement as an "interest group."

NinetyNine (#98)

I said 'interest groups' because well before Target started sponsoring free nights at the New Museum (yeah, they do really cool things in NY and LA too!) they had already put gays in a box. Your position is the naive optimism of someone who thinks Target ever did a goddamn thing out of altruism — I'm just trying to establish a corrective that puts the appropriate lens on the situation. Don't get angry only when it's painfully, ridonkulously clear how Target thinks of its customers (and this case, the, um, 'pro-gay' ones? what is the language you would actually prefer?). Think about how we possibly got to that point, and maybe just not fucking shop at Target in the first place.

I actually don't think this. But taking an age old question about corporations and dealing both sides of the deck and craven market segmentation for profit: really? In 2010? Citizens Union is not some rally cry. It's the eulogy. Ten years after there was on the ground no bullshit proof of how awful Whole Foods is (hello Wild Oats acquisition!), I have to read myriad articles about 'whoa! they act like a corporation?' Please.

Abe Sauer (#148)

Never said they acted in any way other than in their own long term interests which, again, is what makes this latest move disappointing. And you don't *have* to read anything.

BadUncle (#153)

FWIW, Disney endured boycotts and other heat when it extended its partner benefits. I don't think anyone thought of it as altruism, but merely a sound business decision to retain top talent in the creative services industries. The same calculus is behind Gay Day or whatever it is. As Hobbes would have it, altruism is only an appetite, anyway.

NinetyNine (#98)

And you don't have to reply to comments.

Abe Sauer (#148)

It must be exhausting to be you.

NinetyNine (#98)

Do you really think it takes effort to argue with you?

Abe Sauer (#148)

Argue? An argument, by definition, means there are two sides with reasons for or against something. What are you for? What are you against?

NinetyNine (#98)

Well, in this case, you are against feedback and I am for it. I am against authors trying to mitigate the role of dissenting positions with glib statements like 'you can leave' and you think it it's an indication of mental defect, I guess? It's hard to say because you don't really follow any logic.

Per above, you argued for a boycott of Target in response to a single issue. I have two points of few there: single issue boycotts never sway broad political issues (ask Peter Feld about single issue campaigning), particularly when they are progressive in nature (being an abhorrent racist, unfortunately, has proved to be successful), and have even less effect when directed at private businesses. Target seems to be weathering all the anti-gay protests, even though at least some portion of their customer base is probably rabidly anti-gay. By your logic, shouldn't Target identify them and refuse to sell to them?

And above all that: using multinational corporations as a means to advance a progressive agenda represents such an astounding amount of acquiescence to a specific social order that the theatrics may be counterproductive. If you want to argue Debord or Kundera's line about being "condemned to playact" fine, sure, lets. But that's quite distinct from thumping the drum over one issue and one that isn't even that clear cut, given we're talking about backing politicians, not giving employees domestic partner benefits or divestment, or any private transactions that directly effect the issue. You are complaining about lobbying, a second order action where there is very little causation in the same way that boycotting for a change in business operations might be tangible.

Being against global corporatism is not easy — it comes a some personal expense remove much of the security gleaned from labor exploitation on our behalf. So I know I'm mandating a contraction of lifestyle by saying "boycott Target because it's Target, not because they did one that that looks 'anti-this' or 'anti-that.'"

I personally chose not to. But I'm also not scandalized by this very typical action taken by any 'progressive' business with a market cap of over, say, $40MM.

Abe Sauer (#148)

I argued for consumers to understand what their purchasing power means. I am personally for a consumer punishment of Target. But, if you think being gay is a legitimate reason to be excluded, executed, or singled out to endure some other fork of lesser citizenship, you should INCREASE your patronage of Target. I provide a researched op-ed and then let intelligent Awl readers decide what they want to do with it. Some may choose to boycott, some may choose to cut some trips tree, me may choose to make wiry comments but still patronize and who knows, some )Rondo) may choose to increase buying there. What I'm supplied is factual information. I am not against feedback. I still don't understand what your "argument" is? Is it against a more informed consumer? Is it against consumer action because usually it doesn't work out so why bother? Is it that knowing more about how politics works is futile so who fucking cares? What are you arguing FOR or AGAINST? Are you against informed consumers choosing to get the exact same things they can get at Target at another store because they're upset with corporate direction?

And if you;re dead set on the futility of consumer action, then, yes or no, you are against Awl readers' acting in ways tat they feel support the gay rights movement? Or, are you calling Awl readers' efforts naive and pointless?

Peter Feld? Ha ha ha. Yeah. Peter Feld. Nice guy but w/r/t corporate patronage etc etc…. check with him first before you go off because he may not want you to go down Peter Fed Street in a public forum.

Abe Sauer (#148)

typos galore…jeez

NinetyNine (#98)

Peter makes a point of arguing against single issue campaigning, and I don't think he's worried about me misrepresenting him on that point.

And really, dude, trying to paint me as homophobic? Are you twelve?

'Provide information'? You understand that sort of mealy mouthed post hoc excuse mongering is exactly the sort of rhetorical feints championed by the people you oppose.

You argued — not 'provided information' — for a consumer boycott of a company for a single act that absolutely cannot be viewed through the lens of a single issue. Providing material support to the leading candidate in a Senate race in the state your company is very visibly associated with? And you want a nationwide boycott because of one stated policy position? You think that's the way to get, say, gay marriage legalized? You really think that can work? Go for it man. Start a web petition! Make a website! 'Target Target for contributing to a local political campaign everyone!'

Just because you are angry about something doesn't mean you formed a compelling argument, and becauuse I don't agree with you does not mean you hold the moral high ground on 'supporting gays'. What next, you are going to share with me how many black friends you have?

NinetyNine (#98)

And if you are too drunk to read your own post, this is where you very clearly advocated a boycott:

Target is giving every American, nearly literally, a vote with his or her dollar. So, self-respecting progressive Americans who profess to support the gay community, it's put up or shut-up time;

NinetyNine (#98)

And since you probably can only focus in small increments: I. Am. Against. A. Boycott. Because. It. Will. Not. Help. The. Issue. You. Support.

Abe Sauer (#148)

Does Peter make that point? That's wonderful. If he knows so much he should go run a campaign then instead of wasting his time reaping dollar$ in consultant money from corporations.

Anyway, I didn't know there was single issue campaign here? If you read my earlier piece on Emmer, it should be clear there are a number of issues those on the left might have with him. Hardly "single."

Did I say you were anti-gay rights, much less "homophobic?" No.

"Boycott" is your term, not mine. Some, as above, may just choose to write a letter. I doubt they are dumb enough to think the CEO will call an emergency meeting and change corporate course. But yes, Target is giving every American a vote with the dollar, however they want to make it. I advocate readers knowing more, and based on that knowledge, acting in whatever way they want, even if it is largely futile. What do you advocate? Surrender and helplessness. What exactly is there to lose by voicing an opinion, no matter how much on deaf ears it will fall? I have an opinion, but again, given he readership here, I trust they can interpret the info and do whatever they want wit it. Are you arguing against more information?

Again, to be clear, are you arguing to do nothing? All of those in the Minneapolis (and outside) gay community who are upset and letting Target know… to you their actions are pointless and they never should have bothered, right? I just want to confirm that's your argument.

NinetyNine (#98)

I never said that any action was hopeless. I said a boycott was a bad idea.

It wasn't until commenters asked that your provided contact information. You advocated nothing your post except a boycott. I never felt necessary to comment on other forms of communication or other ways for people to voice their opinion because you never discussed any.

That said, I do question in broad terms the 'engaged consumer' argument vis a vis any publicly traded company. The number of social and economic issues bound in companies at that scale mean that parsing the qualitative difference between Target and Sears and Wal Mart is really slicing the pie pretty thin. Target loves that Wal Mart exists because it provides an Evil Empire to their Reagan.

Peter, by the way, has worked for political campaigns since you were toddler. That's specifically why I referenced him.

Peter also scoffs at letter writing campaigns, and, while quaint, I think they resonate more in areas less media and population dense.

We still don't have data (from you or anyone else) as to the full spread of Target's campaign contributions. If they show a pattern of support for politicians advocating an agenda contrary to their public face, well, that's interesting. Aside from closely held companies (Benetton, say) you rarely get a true picture of political disposition (though the Daytons were no princes, right?). Why would Target publicly support a hot button issue for sales — being the anti-Wal Mart should be plenty, but nonetheless they go much further.

Clearly from the standpoint of market analysis (or maybe actual humanism, but I really doubt that) they see their long-term prospects in left-leaning, urban consumers (blue cities). So there is no doubt they are either doing as much as they think is morally possible or economically expedient to be 'pro-gay' — but they also never promised you, Abe Sauer, that they would ever do anything besides sell cheap but slightly better made than Ikea housewares occassionally designed by fabulous gay men.

They still have to play local politics. I don't know enough about MN to form any intelligent commentary about the situation, but I'll bet you that Goldman Sachs (which, hard to believe, has historically supporter a really impressive array of cultural and political issues broadly identified as liberal) gave plent of money to Al D'Amato in his time. Shit, look at Chuck Schumer. He's ostensibly a 'liberal' senator and he's so far in the pocket of Wall Street he needs a damn flashlight.

I personally believe in iconoclasm. I voted for Nader in 2000 and have never apologized for that fact (a friend threatened to quit speaking to me over it — we settled for a bet of $500 that Roe v. Wade would be overturned with 4 years of a Bush presidency. Still waiting on that check) and it was really game day decision in 2004. I suspended my Nation subscription because they editorialized against the Nader campaign with the basic argument that it was 'improper.' If you want a sense of where I fall on the spectrum, subscribe to Counterpunch.

But don't expect me to wring my hands much over whether Target is more 'pro-gay' than Wal Mart. Williams & Sonoma is about as gay friendly as a company can get. You start pulling FEC records and see how much money they send to Meg Whitman.

NinetyNine (#98)

And I'm going to paste your closing line again in hopes you re-read it:

Target is giving every American, nearly literally, a vote with his or her dollar. So, self-respecting progressive Americans who profess to support the gay community, it's put up or shut-up time;

I don't see how the above is advocating anything beyond a boycott.

NinetyNine (#98)

This page indicates a breakdown that is more in line with what one might expect. Researching now to see if the recent contribution is an indication of bias or just local politicking. And don't blame me for MN Republicans nominating a crackpot.

Having read your earlier item, hey, he looks like a goon. But having watched Shelly Silver submarine a gay marriage bill in NY, I'm here to tell you what they put on the campaign posters doesn't always mean much once they get in the door.

Peter Feld (#79)

Well as Woody Allen said about Marshall McLuhan in Annie Hall, I happen to have Peter Feld right here.

Nick, I think you are mixing up what I have said regarding causal theories about what influences voters with a different issue here, which is whether single-issue campaigns are effective and/or justified. I have scoffed at politicians tallying their mail as evidence of mass opinion (because it isn't, from a research standpoint) – that doesn't mean I wouldn't write a letter myself, on an issue I cared about. And I've probably pointed out to you that political scientists have a very difficult time establishing any evidence that voters vote according to issues.

However, when you guys were toddlers (approx.), I was volunteering on campaigns that were definitely single-issue, McCarthy and McGovern both being mainly antiwar candidacies. (Of course, I also agreed with McGovern on other important issues, like amnesty, acid and abortion.) I took part in secondary boycotts of A&P supermarkets because they were selling non-union lettuce (or grapes) during the UFW boycotts. And in the 80s I was opposed to any Democrat who supported the contras, no matter what their positions on other issues. (And I still hold to that: if Obama had picked Sam Nunn for VP, as was briefly suggested, I would not have voted for the ticket.)

That said, I don't really consider myself single-issue any more; politics is too imperfect and the overall situation is too dire for purism. (For example, if someone were going to play a constructive role in fighting global warming right now, I'd forgive them a lot.) But I don't begrudge people who care enough about gay rights or any other single issue and want to try to leverage their power as consumers to change a corporation's behavior. It's not the same as saying they will influence voters (they probably won't) – but they may make enough trouble for Target as to make them think twice about who is on the receiving end of their largesse.

Letter-writing campaigns are not a way to persuade the electorate but they can be a good way to persuade a politician or corporation that a critical number of people care about something. (Even though that politician or corporation would be better advised to do a poll than to tally their mail if they're trying to learn what the public thinks.) Boycotts don't require majority participation to be effective, they just have to exact some sort of financial toll, and I think directing that energy on a company that's supporting noxious candidates is appropriate.

Abe, you have a very optimistic idea of where my money is coming from.

Abe Sauer (#148)

I'm going to paste a few lines in hopes you read them:

99: "Peter [Feld] also scoffs at letter writing campaigns…"

Peter Feld: "Letter-writing campaigns… can be a good way to persuade a politician or corporation that a critical number of people care about something"

Somebody on the Internet is wrong indeed.

NinetyNine (#98)

As Peter noted — those were conversations in which Peter responded to me saying I had written a letter to a local politician. And, yes, I boycotted Nestle for years. That worked out really well.

And I never said single-issue campaigns weren't justified. But the convention of Christians boycotting networks or corporations has not yielded much change there. Corporation, but definition, are socially liberal, since they seeks to maximize revenue and markets. They will segment as precisely as possible in hopes of insulating the social segments in opposition. That is what they do, and they do it without regard for morality or humanism or anything besides money. That's why pragmatically and ideally, boycotting a corporation over an single issue has limited effect. That anyone expresses surprise over Target giving money to MN Forward is just an indication willing one was to lap up their propaganda.

Eric B (#6,265)

This is the problem with the legal fiction of corporations as persons with 1st Amendment rights. The corporation is not a deliberating citizen in a democracy, it can only look to its bottom line.

Abe Sauer (#148)

The other problem is that, like persons, corporations have no consciousness of death.

Abe Sauer (#148)


KarenUhOh (#19)

So, I wrote them, at the address above.

Here's the response I received from their spokesperson:

Thank you for writing Target Corporation. Gregg Steinhafel would like to extend his appreciation for sharing your thoughtful feedback.

Target has long believed that engaging in civic activities is an important and necessary element of operating a national retail business. What's more important than any one candidate's stance on a particular issue is how we nurture thoughtful, long-term growth in the state of Minnesota.

To continue to grow and create jobs and opportunity in our home state, we believe it is imperative to be engaged in public policy and the political process. That is why we are members of organizations like the Minnesota Business Partnership, the Chamber of Commerce and many others. And that is why we decided to contribute to MN Forward.

MN Forward's objective is to elect candidates from both parties who will make job creation and economic growth a top priority. We operate best when working collaboratively with legislators on both sides of the aisle. In fact, if you look at our Federal PAC contributions year to date, you will see that they are very balanced between Republicans and Democrats. For more information please visit, and view the Civic Activity page.

Target has a large stake in Minnesota's future, which is why it is so important to be able to provide jobs, serve guests, support communities and deliver on our commitment to shareholders. As an international business that is proud to call Minnesota home, it is critical that we have a business environment that allows us to be competitive. Our guests, team members, communities and shareholders depend on Target to remain competitive.

Please don't hesitate to call me at 612-307-9935 using the reference number 1-452602274 if you would like to discuss this further.

Thanks for taking the time to share your feedback.

Abe Sauer (#148)

That seems… familiar.

KarenUhOh (#19)

I'd expect a similar response if I sent them a cut-and-paste ransom note for their dog.

Abe Sauer (#148)


Aatom (#74)

How come there's no backlash among the fancy gay designers they contract to make crap mass-produced knock-offs of their own work?

Abe Sauer (#148)

time or $. First, there hasn't been enough yet, second there is too much of.

Laura Hedlund (#6,283)

Boycott Target
Target publicly donates to one side. Corporations can now donate UNLIMITED funds. Women who favor strong schools, libraries, fair taxation are Target's key customers. Why risk aliening more than half their customer base? There is no local place to buy school supplies or underwear. I buy food directly from local farmers. Know where I can buy local underwear? Meetup Boycott Target

jcharles (#6,303)

Excellent article Abe. You were very fair while praising and critiquing Target. Moreover, you allowed Target the chance to clarify the seeming gap between their values and their political donations. (I'm heartbroken that they didn't.) I think they used to call this journalism.

I have a question: when you commented parenthetically that the Target statement was unedited, were you referring to certain mistakes? I see a lot of bland equivocation, but nothing grammatically offensive. Just curious.

Abe Sauer (#148)

I mean that I did not pick and choose from their full statement to frame a position. That is their complete and full reply to my question and my offer of a national platform to, after his positions have become known, officially distance itself from Emmer. As you noted, they chose not to do this.

Liz McDaniel (#6,329)

I must say that this surprises me for sure. I wont be shopping at Target ever again. I also cant wait to see how much business they will be losing. I thought that this was America, Land of the Free.

Kelly Glover (#6,330)

Morbo – quick correction for you – the DFL ENDORSED candidate is Margaret Anderson Kelliher, not Mark Dayton. He is running as DFL for the endorsement in the primaries.
Target needs to rethink priorities. A corporation is more about the community which supports it than about the political power in office.

Walmart has been off my list for a while, leaving Target and KMart. KMart, you now have all my business!

Post a Comment