Crawling back into the sunlight after a the publicity nightmare it created for itself, Target and CEO Gregg Steinhafel now say the company is “genuinely sorry” for donating $150,000 in cash and services to the political action committee MN Forward. Steinhafel also told employees (and, by proxy, consumers) today, “We remain fully committed to fostering an environment that supports and respects the rights and beliefs of all individuals. ” But how can Target remain fully committed to something it never had in the first place?
“The truth is not that Target and its leadership have suddenly turned on their commitment to gay rights. It’s more that it never really existed to begin with.” So says The Awl‘s Abe Sauer, who’s been on top of Target’s anti-gay political donations. “Further research shows that Target has funneled significant funding to the most socially conservative of Republicans and that it boasts a frightening culture of anti-gay candidate support from Target’s own stable of top executives.”
We already knew CEO Steinhafel personally donated money to the campaign of Rep. Michele Bachmann, easily one of America’s worst people to hold elected office. But the anti-gay money from Target’s toppers doesn’t end there.
Target’s current group of top corporate officers have supported a murderers row of anti-gay politicians. Even more confusing, some of those anti-gay candidates supported by Target’s PAC and its executives don’t even represent Minnesota.
Of the small handful of donations he’s made, Target CFO Douglas Scovanner has given to both Rep. John Kline and Rep. Erik Paulson. John Kline joined Bachmann with a group of Republican members of Congress who put their names on a lawsuit to force the District of Columbia to put gay marriage to a Prop 8-like referendum. Meanwhile, Paulson supports amending the constitution to ban gay equality.
Of the five candidates to whom Target CMO Michael Francis has donated, three are George W. Bush and the aforementioned John Kline and Erik Paulson. Target’s Chief Information Officer Beth Jacob gave her largest personal donation ever to Erik Paulson. John Kline also received money from Terrence Scully, Target’s president of financial services. So did anti-gay amendment-supporter Mitch McConnell, who isn’t even a representative of Minnesota.
And equally tellingly:
All of these executives also gave money to former Minnesota senator Norm Coleman during his much contested 2008 race against Al Franken. Even largely politically inactive Target executives, such as Executive VP of Stores Troy Risch, gave to Coleman in 2008.
Al Franken, who is a very staunch supporter of complete gay equality, received zero dollars from Target executives or the Target PAC. Coleman, meanwhile, supported a constitutional amendment against gay equality.
And while those are all individual donations, which the heinous Supreme Court decision in Citizens United wouldn’t affect, Target’s own PAC, the newly formed Citizens Political Forum, has been funneling money to groups like Freedom First PAC, the fiefdom of outgoing Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, whose record on LGBT equality is terrible. It’s one more way some of the billions Target generates every year finds the pockets of bigoted politicos.
Target and its executive suite have a clear connection to a slew of anti-gay candidates. Listening, then, to the company trumpet its commitment to diversity and equal rights and blah blah flies in the direct face of what these individuals are doing in private. And while every American has the right, deservedly so, to donate money to politicians they support, consumers also have a right to understand that as they spend dollar after dollar with Target, the company’s earnings increase, and these executives’ salaries, bonuses, and equity stakes in the company become more lucrative. Which gives them more money to donate to political candidates who want nothing more than to zap rights away from queer Americans.
I’d write something about Target’s executives now having “a target on their backs,” but it turns out they always have. We just never put on our special goggles to see it.