It’s been a few weeks since the media storm surrounding Target’s political donation to Tea Party darling and Sarah Palin-endorsed MN GOP gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer. In fact, it’s been just long enough for various media outlets and pundit-types to start the post-mortem analysis to see if the donation hurt the retail giant or if, in the end, it was much ado about nothing.
Mother Jones offers a helpful overview, noting that while its bottom line may be just fine, as a brand the retailer has definitely taken a hit. That hit came largely due to the massive on-line presence of opposition to the donation, in the form of Facebook groups and online petitions (here is the petition for Care2, for example).
Much of the campaign was orchestrated by the group Alliance for a Better Minnesota (ABM) a nonprofit progressive organization dedicated to educating the public about policy matters that specifically employs new media and new media strategy to get results.
As New Media Director for ABM Xavier Lopez explained both Target and Best Buy need to come to some kind of consensus on the sort of candidate they are willing to support given their huge media efforts at painting themselves supportive of progressive causes. “The real problem here is that Tom Emmer is against so much of the things these corporations have dedicated time and resources toward — whether it’s electronics recycling or rights for GLBT families. Truth be told, Tom Emmer is the problem. We just want to make sure the people in our state who work at these two corporations know that, and can make better decisions moving forward.”
Quickly after the initial dust-up over its donation Target backtracked, claiming that it didn’t really mean to support candidate Emmer’s platform, just that he was the more pro-business of the candidates. If that backtracking rang a little hollow, it is for good reason as a second, more direct ad by the group and with Target’s money shows the retailer knew exactly what it was doing.
The Target and Best Buy donations came to light only because Minnesota has a comprehensive disclosure statute that forces daylight onto these kinds of activities. But not all states have them, and those that are trying to craft them now in the wake of the Citizens United decision are finding stiff opposition from various pro-business groups. The reality is unlimited money in our elections, regardless of the source, undercuts democracy to the point it cannot function. Target may have learned a lesson in its initial donation scandal, but it doesn’t look like its the lesson those of us who believe in free and open elections hoped they would learn.
But that is no reason to quit the fight. Continue to let Target know that its actions are unacceptable and make sure and lobby your representatives for tough campaign finance disclosure laws. The future of our country is riding on it.
photo courtesy of j.reed via Flickr