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Rybak: Target CEO gave to my guv campaign before Emmer's

Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel is getting plenty of grief for Target Corp.'s donation to MnForward, the big-business group trying to elect GOP gubernatorial hopeful Tom Emmer. Along the way, this has caused political reporters to look at Steinhafel's personal donations, which are overwhelmingly Republican.

But Wednesday morning, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, a DFLer, called MPR reporter Tom Scheck to say Steinhafel had given him the maximum $2,000 donation before contributing to Emmer.

That's a head-snapping switch — from Howard Dean Democrat to anti-tax Republican. I wondered aloud (on Twitter) what Rybak had done to become Steinhafel's favorite DFLer. There's also historical irony: In 2001, when Rybak first ran for mayor, he made a major issue out of the city's $60 million subsidy for Target's downtown store.

Of course, Rybak (who dropped out of the guv's race after losing the endorsement to Margaret Anderson Kelliher) is now a three-term mayor, and Target is downtown's largest employer.

A few hours after my tweet, Rybak called. He said during his governor's run, he told Steinhafel he would raise his income taxes — but not Target's corporate taxes. That pledge won him the support of many business leaders (though it helps explain why many union types refused to support Rybak at this year's endorsing convention).

Rybak also noted he supported and worked on Target's downtown efforts before becoming mayor, but opposed the sheer magnitude of the subsidy.

Rybak said he didn't support "in any way," Target's corporate donation to MnForward, but wanted to be sure the Steinhafel's full record was known. He said the Target CEO didn't ask him to call reporters; he had just heard erroneous statements that Steinhafel gave exclusively to the GOP. (By the way, I couldn't find another donation to a Democrat in state or federal databases.)

Reporters wouldn't have been able to find Steinhafel's donation to Rybak. Because the Minneapolis mayor is not running in the primary, his campaign doesn't have to file a campaign finance report until January.

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Comments (5)

Apples and oranges.

Rybak's donation came from an individual, who last time I checked could vote and was entitled to spend his money as he sees fit.

Mn Forward's donation came from a corporation whose only influence on an election, since it can't vote, is to hand out as many pictures of dead presidents as possible.

Target and any other corporations who do this (on either side of the political aisle),deserve all the blowback that comes their way for not thinking through the repercussions.

Maybe Target thought only people who view the world thru the same lens as Mn Forward and the candidates this group supports shopped there?

Kimbers -

No argument on the apples/oranges thing, though it is interesting Minneapolis' mayor felt the need to call reporters to talk about Target CEO's personal donations (to be fair, after reporters mentioned it in their stories).

That, and any measure of the relationship between a mayor and an influential CEO, are newsworthy, I think.

The lesson to be learned from Target's current situation is that donations to a candidate don't support a single issue. You're (pardon the phrase) buying the whole package.


I'm not sure if he "felt the need to call" as much as the media presented him with an opportunity to become part of a story and he took it.

I like him but we are talking about Mayor Rybak here. ; )

In this crazy world it must be OK to admit you promised corporate types you'd protect them so that you could get elected to solve a budget problem partly the result of cuts to the corporate income tax.

All taxes should be progressive!