Human Rights Campaign | Minnesota | Republican Party | Supreme Court | Target | Tom Emmer

Target, HRC Refuse to Budge Over Campaign Contributions Funding Anti-Gay MN Gubernatorial Candidate Tom Emmer

Over the weekend, Steve posted about Target's $150,000 donation to the Minnesota Forward PAC, which bought ads for anti-gay gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer. Target's motivation and ability to give this money is a direct result of the Supreme Court's decision in January to allow corporations to donate freely to political campaigns.

Best Buy has also donated $100,000 to the MN forward PAC, the Star Tribune revealed today. We were warned after that SCOTUS decision that corporations would now be in charge of American politics and it now seems to be manifesting itself in Minnesota.

In these situations, fiscal issues trump social ones, at least in Target's, and now Best Buy's, case.

Emmer A Towleroad reader forwarded the letter he received in response to his complaint to the company, which is similar to an internal letter sent to employees by CEO Gregg Steinhafel in which Steinhafel defended the company's political donations. As The Awl notes, Steinhafel has a personal history of contributions to far right politicians like Michelle Bachmann.

Dear xxxxxxx,

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.

Our support of causes and candidates is based strictly on issues that affect our retail and business interests. 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.

Thanks for taking the time to share your feedback.


Julie B.
Target Executive Offices

Targetlogo So far national gay rights groups are holding off on any action against Target. Target's donation to Emmer will not affect the company's 100% rating on the Human Rights Campaign's Corporate Equality Index, which it has received for some time, according to Minnesota's The

The HRC’s Deputy Press Secretary, Paul Guequierre explained it this way in an email to “While political contributions to support candidates are not a factor in HRC Foundation’s Corporate Equality Index, HRC finds it puzzling that Target would take great steps to support LGBT inclusiveness while simultaneously helping a candidate who shamelessly rejects equality for LGBT Minnesotans.”

Until this year’s landmark Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission Supreme Court decision, Minnesota and 24 other states had laws banning corporate donations to political campaigns. The court decision, according to Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board Executive Director Gary Goldsmith, was what allowed Target to overtly donate to Emmer’s campaign.

So far, Guequierre said, the HRC has no plans right now to modify CEI criteria to account for these new possibilities for corporation’s anti-LGBT activities, but he left the door open for changes in the future.

“Now in its ninth year, the CEI’s criteria has evolved,” Guequierre told in an email. “In 2011, for example, there will be nearly a half-dozen new criteria that will be added for evaluation. Criteria will continue to evolve as we come into new information.”

LGBT rights group Outfront Minnesota has called on Target to balance in some way its support for Emmer:

"Target should recognize that its support of Representative Emmer's campaign supports his toxic social agenda, significant parts of which involve targeting GLBT people, immigrants, and low-income workers for discrimination and marginalization. Target should be aware of the damage to the lives of GLBT Minnesotans that its spending in support of Representative Emmer will have. Because of this, OutFront Minnesota calls on Target to do the right thing and make amends for the damage it has done by taking back its donation to Minnesota Forward, or by donating an equal amount to a political committee or cause of its choice that works to combat the attacks, dehumanization and marginalization of GLBT people, immigrants, and low-income workers represented by Emmer and Minnesota Forward."

The Minnesota Forward PAC ad, if you're interested, AFTER THE JUMP...

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  1. I have no idea what to do with this. We in Minnesota are totally stumped. If you are in Minnesota and you shop, you go to Target or Best Buy. Right now, all you will hear is silence as Minnesota digests what Target and Best Buy have done.
    I also don't understand HRC's refusal to revisit its rating of Target. It seems to me this qualifies for a re-think at least.

    Posted by: Fulton | Jul 27, 2010 7:37:16 PM

  2. I don't think anybody else knows how to handle this either, as the SCOTUS has created a shit skyscraper by allowing corporations to directly affect how politicians will vote and act.

    So, the IL ex-governor can't trade the Senator seat legally, but you can officially bribe senators with big, corporate donations? Maybe this is why Palin is popular; our intellectuals in office don't seem any brighter in many aspects.

    Posted by: Drew | Jul 27, 2010 7:51:08 PM

  3. "We were warned after that SCOTUS decision that corporations would now be in charge of American politics"

    Corperations were already in charge of American politics to a large degree. The ruling just makes it so they can do so more openly and directly.

    We need to remove ALL corperate influence and put the people back in charge so the government can do its job and regulate the corperations.

    Posted by: ravewulf | Jul 27, 2010 7:59:30 PM

  4. FYI....I received EXACTLY the same form letter from Target in response to my complaint. It was signed by Jennifer Hanson, Target Executive offices.

    Posted by: Rock in Sunny Florida | Jul 27, 2010 8:02:47 PM

  5. Target and Best Buy, your corporate agenda is giving $250K to an anti-gay two-time drunk driver, my gay agenda is to now shop at

    Posted by: Eric | Jul 27, 2010 8:05:29 PM

  6. I boycott Target for "personal" reasons, but I won't give other large companies my money for the simple fact that they crush small businesses...and until everyone else realizes this "they" will remain abd control of our lives and country...It really doesn't take much to shop local, you would be surprised...As to "Fulton", I've been to Targets headquarters in MN and know for a fact that there are other places for you to shop.

    Posted by: wonderer | Jul 27, 2010 8:10:34 PM

  7. That's ridiculous reasoning, wonderer. Smaller retailers that beat other small retailers become bigger retailers. If it's not them, it's someone else. If americans didn't want chains like target, they wouldn't shop at them...but they do want them. So as much americans like to complain about how corps like walmart are eliminating american manufacturing jobs by negotiating with firms to ship plants and jobs overseas, translating into lower prices for them and the consumer, americans continue to do it. Complain about decreased quality, they continue buy it. Complain about destroying smaller businesses, continue to shop at larger businesses.

    I won't shop at walmart or target because of homophobic discrimination. That's a good reason.

    Posted by: TANK | Jul 27, 2010 8:20:52 PM

  8. 'Target' is the perfect name for a corporation which gives financial support to an anti-gay Republican politician whose friends include a "kill-the-gays" Christian rock singer. Hope they start carry some reasonably priced bullet-proof vests.

    Posted by: Timzilla | Jul 27, 2010 8:23:13 PM

  9. Here in Tucson Target's policy has been to fire long-time employees for minor, ridiculous infractions (many times after having received extremely high evaluations scores), and then replacing them with much cheaper new employees.


    They aren't getting any more of my money.

    Posted by: homer | Jul 27, 2010 8:26:33 PM

  10. Tank. I'm one of those small companies that Target took advantage of and it nearly bankrupt me. From 7mil a year to 0. If that was my only business I would be on the streets...They have boardrooms with large tables, scissors and all the catalogs and magazines from all of the other small businesses. Cutting out the "hot" items and sending them to china to be replicated. As soon as "your" product (or something that looks just like it) ends up on targets selves your can kiss it goodbye….Unless your someone like Michael Graves where you just design for them and don’t have to put out any money, it doesn’t pay….They would literally money from my company saying pallets never arrived then would charge me because there selves were empty…The way “They” make money is to not “Mark Up” the price then charge the company like I just described. I would sell them a product for $3 and they would sell it for $3.50, then I would get Debt memos for more then what the invoice was for…….Sorry, you can tell this is a touchy subject….I could go on forever.

    Posted by: wonderer | Jul 27, 2010 8:46:44 PM

  11. OK, last time I'm buying anything from Target or Best Buy. Lots and lots of other places to shop.

    I'm doing very well on groceries right now by shopping extremely locally. The big guys get the left overs as far as my dollars go, just the few things my local suppliers don't have (less than 10% of what I buy).

    I can easily adapt the same thing to any other retailer or fuel supplier.

    Good news, corporations! You too can shower your cronies with all the dollars you can raid from the pockets of your stockholders. Bad news, corporations! Pay back is gonna be a bitch. You ARE replaceable. VERY replaceable.

    Posted by: Craig | Jul 27, 2010 9:07:16 PM

  12. Wonderer, that's rough. But that's the reality of capitalism...there will always be winners and there will always be losers (and in america, there will always be more losers than winners). Of course, with corporate/government corruption and an ability to buy influence on the local, state and federal level to enforce market consolidation (not to mention the competitive edge accrued from an ability to withstand a temporary loss in lowering prices to push smaller businesses out with substitutes or the same product), the playing field is stacked against the small business owner (and moreso now). But, them's the brakes and the cost of playing. I'm not saying it's okay, but it's very hard for me to have sympathy for people that, if they had the same advantage in competition, would do the exact same thing. And, another thing that's true is that americans don't care about small businesses...

    Posted by: TANK | Jul 27, 2010 9:08:06 PM

  13. TANK. I completely understand what you’re saying, it’s just a sore subject. I know alot of companies that have gone under, from potters in Europe to dried goods here in the US. Mainly not because of the economy (which didn’t help) but because of china and the large corps that knock them off....As a business owner I know that you have to keep reinventing yourself. And expand too ALL markets otherwise someone else will…..

    Posted by: wonderer | Jul 27, 2010 9:31:41 PM

  14. Mark Brandt Dayton, heir to Dayton-Hudson Stores (now Target) and former Minnesota Democratic Senator married Alida Rockefeller (daughter John D. Rockefeller III and the sister of Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), now divorced.

    Dayton has always been known as being pro-LGBT rights and even voted against a constitutional ban of same-sex marriage in June 2006.

    Wells Fargo's Former Chairman Richard Kovacevich and it's current Chairman & CEO John G. Stumpf sits on their board, and all four could be a great advocates against move on part of Target's current management.

    Dayton is also running for Governor of Minnesota

    Posted by: Aaron | Jul 27, 2010 9:38:39 PM

  15. Just sent Target my letter of disgust. Here's where to..


    PLUS, this homophobic jackass, Tom Emmer is a drunk driver cited two times. Gross.

    Posted by: pickles | Jul 27, 2010 10:29:24 PM

  16. There is a boycott Target group on Facebook.

    Posted by: chad | Jul 27, 2010 10:45:27 PM

  17. It's a real bummer... I always liked shopping at both stores, but I would have a hard time walking thru the doors knowing that I'm funding politicians legislating against me...

    I always got a kick out of Target telling the Salvation Army to get lost at Xmas. Target said they didn't want any army in front of their stores. They accused Target of being un-American... Their response, "yeah, we're French!"

    Posted by: stephen | Jul 27, 2010 11:06:16 PM

  18. My letter (email) sent to BB:

    Dear Best Buy,

    It saddens and disappoints me, but given your very substantial and public contributions to GOP PACS (like the ironically named 'MN Forward') we will no longer be shopping at Best Buy stores or your websites. I will be telling everyone I know to do the same. Being what must be your ideal customer demographic -- a tech savvy, early adopting, RPG playing, double-income household of two (happily married) men, with no kids -- we have spent many thousands of dollars over the years with your company. But no longer.

    I will add that I am puzzled and baffled that a company that was built on constantly bringing us what is new and progressive and possible in the world of technology would openly support such backwards, regressive groups like 'MN Forward' and the GOP in general. There are far too many retail options out there for us, for us to chose to be giving money to a company that apparently has no respect for me and my family.

    Posted by: Rucka | Jul 28, 2010 1:43:17 AM

  19. I hope HRC will rethink its index to reflect this new reality.

    Posted by: DEREK WASHINGTON | Jul 28, 2010 1:45:50 AM

  20. Well, the petitions on facebook and at change. org are filling up... and doubtless Rachel Maddow will be all over this and hopefully target will be embarassed into taking a progressive position... or not. Business trumps everything for these thugs and despite Sam Alito's loud disavowal of the foul consequences of the SCOTUS decision, here we go. And how depressing that HRC's deputy press secretary Paul Guequierre thinks that "criteria" is singular. It ain't. Criteria have changed, Paul. Not "criteria has changed". So HRC is syntactically challenged too... no surprise there, then.

    Posted by: iain | Jul 28, 2010 3:58:17 AM

  21. Boycotts, especially of a national chain, are rarely effective as they require more organization than most groups are willing or able to provide. And, the boycott itself will usually generate a level of publicity that will often create new customers (in this case anti-gay groups) for the business, offsetting any loss of revenue caused by the boycott.

    Personally I'm a big Target shopper but will now take my business elsewhere and I will personally write Target a letter explaining my decision. I honestly wouldn't have cared if the donation had been to a progressive liberal Democrat my opposition would be the same - I do not want companies using revenue from my shopping to support any political candidate.

    Target's community involvement is unmatched by virtually any other national retailer but there is a huge difference between supporting communities where you earn your profits and supporting politicians who do not support all of your customers equally (and this includes Democrats).

    Posted by: ChrisM | Jul 28, 2010 8:48:16 AM

  22. The day the corrupt HRC and GLAAD declares a boycott of Target is when I start doing all my shopping there! Boycotts are useless and do only one thing - pump up the delusional egos of the participants because they stupidly think they are making an impact. When the over paid and corrupt leaders of HRC and GLAAD resign and bringing new leadership then we might actually stand with them in their protests, till then I will patronize every single company they chose to protest.

    Posted by: Sharon | Jul 28, 2010 1:02:51 PM

  23. Sharon, are you suggesting that the leaders of HRC and GLAAD are compensated on the levels of Target CEOs? (I believe you are mistaken in your concern...)

    And now that Target wants to put some stores in San Francisco, maybe they can explain why they should be allowed here---since they are contributing heavily to candidates who SCREAM their bigotry.

    Posted by: TonyJazz | Jul 28, 2010 2:26:07 PM

  24. sharon, less talking and more baking! I so love white "upwardly mobile" republican right wang gays and out their cliche domesticity in some suburban hellhole. And it's not even about "nonconformity" or consciously denying the blah blah, whatever. It's just fatally you!

    Posted by: TANK | Jul 28, 2010 2:34:45 PM

  25. These companies do NOT support the gay community with their ads in GLBT publications or by sponsoring events. The are buying customers who will notice what the corporate dollars will do. Then they use the customers' dollars to support the fundamentalist religionist anti-gay candidates selected by the CEOs of these companies. And who the Hell is HRC to speak for me? HRC is nothing more than The Joe Solomonese Show - a bunch of ass-kissers who spend money going to and having dinners, promoting Kathy Griffin's Show and schmoozing at the White House. I say boycott these Corporations: ALL of the businesses owned by the Mormon Church (See Target, Campbell Soup Products, Dominos Pizza Carl's Jr. and now Best Buy. If the American Family Association can launch boycotts for their anti-gay agenda, we MUST alert the public about corporations who are promoting hate mongers into elected political office where they will do us even more harm by removing/restricting the rights we have attained thus far. BOYCOTT!

    Posted by: SCV Malcolm | Jul 28, 2010 3:22:10 PM

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