So it seems the ante has been upped in the controversy over Target Corp.’s donation to MnForward, the big-business group trying to elect Tom Emmer.
As we all know, gay-rights supporters are outraged that the friendly hometown corporation gave shareholder dough to elect a guy who opposes equal rights. Today’s news is that three institutional shareholders holding $57.5 million in Target stock want the company to conduct a “comprehensive review of Target’s political contributions and spending processes, including the criteria used for such contributions.”
So the big-money folks find some agreement with the grassroots — a very legitimate story.
But there is a bit of context missing from the Star Tribune and Associated Press stories: Trillium Asset Management, Calvert Investments, and Walden Asset Management are all “socially responsible investors” — they incorporate human rights, diversity, environmental and other moral stands into their investment decisions.
Walden’s mission statement declares it is “managing our clients’ assets to achieve their specific financial and social objectives.”
In other words, the funds are ideological by design, with a different ideology than the sharks who typify the investment community — or in this case, Target’s management. (Though Target execs also say they’ll do a political-giving review, you can read the lacerating tone of the shareholder resolution here.)
That doesn’t make the Strib or AP stories wrong — the Target blowback did pick up steam yesterday. However, the news also doesn’t mean that run-of-the-mill capitalists see the discounter’s donations as a value-destroying proposition, if you define value as shareholder return.
The Strib story noted that a New York state pension fund and union funds may co-sign the Target resolution; hopefully readers can figure out the political dimensions there.
“Socially responsible” funds market themselves as different because they are. Readers should know the distinction when considering the depth of the “investor backlash.”
Update: MPR’s Tom Scheck compiles a list of corporations that will and won’t give to MnForward.