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Updates and thoughts on the Target mess

Updates and thoughts on the Target mess
By Eric Black

I’m way late to comment on the Target-Emmer contribution kerfuffle, but I’ll offer a few updates and a few thoughts.


1.       The Star Tribune editorialized today that the effort to boycott Target is “counterproductive” because Target, in general, is a good corporate citizen and because if the boycott hurts the company it will hurt Target’s employees as well.

2.       The effort to link corporate contributions with Emmer’s issue positions has spread now from gay issues to immigrant issues. (Emmer has applauded the Arizona crackdown on illegal immigrants. He has called it a “wonderful first step.”  Although as, Bluestem Prairie notes, he has toned down his support for the Arizona law (now it’s just a “good step” and begun endorsing a “pathway to citizenship.”)

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3.       My buddy Tom Hamburger reported this week (and I’m not sure I’ve seen this elsewhere) that Target is actually in back-room negotiations with representatives of the Human Rights Campaign over HRC’s demand that Target make up for its Emmer/Minnesota Forward donation with an equal donation to someone or something that supports gay rights.

4.       HRC’s leverage relates to Target’s ambitions to build new stores in San Francisco. MinnPost’s Jay Weiner wrote about the San Francisco angle, which is vital to understanding why this has been such a blow to Target.


1.       It’s hard to believe that people as presumably smart at Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel and Target’s PR people could have put out such a stupid first reaction, which was to explain that the company’s support for Emmer had to do with his pro-business policies, not has anti-gay policies. Sorry, if Minnesota gets Emmer as governor, it gets all of his policies, at least within the branch of government that the chief executive controls.

2.       I was also way underwhelmed by the Steinhafel “apology” which read:  “I realize our decision affected many of you in a way I did not anticipate, and for that I am genuinely sorry.”

 In addition to the fact, which many have pointed out, that Steinhafel doesn’t seem to be expressing any regret over his original decision, only for the reaction it has induced (which in my book makes it a non-apology) focus on the key word “affected.” I don’t believe a key word in a high stakes PR gambit like this could have landed in there without substantial consideration, but the conclusion was to choose a word with several different possible meanings, rendering it meaningless. Just to name a few the “affect” in question could range from “making many of you mad at Target,” to “making it harder for many of you to get legally married.”

3.       The left is pretty excited about the possibility that this Target embarrassment will cause other corporations to shy away from taking advantage of the new opportunity for unlimited political contributions with corporate funds. The Citizens United ruling was an abomination on several levels, but I suspect that corporations who take heed from Target’s embarrassment will take greater pains to make their political contributions in ways that do not have to be disclosed. It’s my understanding that this is entirely possible if the companies are careful and pass the contributions through enough filters.