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Target At It Again

Target At It Again

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.

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photo courtesy of j.reed via Flickr

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100 comments

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10:18PM PDT on Sep 17, 2010

There is a world of difference between a private donation and a corporate giving a donation.
1. You make the oney and you are the one that decides with what money you earn yo give it to whoever you want, that is a given.
2. A corproation has a staff and and when they give the money they are saying on behalf of the staff and the stockholders we are giving you money. This means several things the first is the stockholders will be receiving less money in their dividen check. Since you expect any company not to spend money they do not need to or that a candidite in reality hurts your emplyees the employees will not be happy and if employees aren't happy one of ttwo thing could happen. Pissed off employees bring in the unions and stores hate unions.
or If the employees are mad enough they could put the company out of business. It is in the stores best interest to keep everyone happy (as possible anyway) .

6:58AM PDT on Sep 12, 2010

Too much is being made of this. If as an individual, you make a contribution to a candidate because you agree with some of the issues he or she stands for, that's your right, and no one critizes YOU for doing so. Why? Because you disclose who you give a contribution to. That same right applies to a business as well. The only difference is their contribution is made public. The individual consumers not approving of their choice can choose not to shop there any longer or use the saying "live & let live" or "to each his own". A business should be able to contribute to anyone they please without all this repercusion.

9:46PM PDT on Sep 11, 2010

We have to have transparency. Thanks for the update

11:41AM PDT on Sep 11, 2010

At least Target{the very least} felt the effects of their act.

10:25AM PDT on Sep 11, 2010

I have stopped shopping at Target and hope all business get the message. Campaign fiance reform seems to be dead. I hope that public fiancing for all campaigns is once again a topic for discussion. This is the only way that all candidates have a level playing feel.

3:58PM PDT on Sep 10, 2010

"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."

This is the most important statement in this whole article. It is imperative for voters to push transparency forward in all donations; political, religious and those to aid organizations. The financial manipulations by BIG BUSINESS and their lackeys the Republican party are the antithesis of what 'democracy' is all about.

2:55PM PDT on Sep 10, 2010

Interesting that MN Republican candidate for governor Tom Emmer is a trail lawyer - one of the bugaboos that are reputed to support the Dems! Also, to compare union contributions to those of corporations makes it a David and Goliath contest. Only about 11% of workers even belong to unions these days! Corporations should be striped of their designation as individuals ASAP!

3:13PM PDT on Sep 9, 2010

Right-On

3:09PM PDT on Sep 9, 2010

Everyone has a right to their opinion, weather it be right or wrong in your eyes! Nobody is perfect with some decisions made!! Goodluck!!!

2:51PM PDT on Sep 9, 2010

Target has already said that they contributed to candidates based on specific issues. Some people contribute to candidates simply because they support the right to abortion, for example, and nobody should criticize them for that. It's in their interest, as they see it, for that basic right to be advanced. On the other hand, if anyone believes that it is OK to contribute on the basis of that one issue, it would be wrong to criticize someone else if they chose to contribute to a candidate based on that candidate's stand on some other particular issue or group of issues. A business being pro-business certainly would not surprise anyone, I trust.

Yes, that "person" is a corporation. But our current law allows these contributions. Unlike contributions from an individual, YOU actually can potentially influence corporate giving, by letting the corporation know what you think about them, as a customer of the corporation.

These contributions were both rational and within the law. As individuals we can work to change one or both of these things, but they do make sense in their context.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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