In the bull’s-eye: How Target — and Minnesota — landed at ground zero of an expensive U.S. debate

In the bull's-eye: How Target -- and Minnesota -- landed at ground zero of an expensive U.S. debate
REUTERS/Robert Galbraith
“Getting into politics means picking fights,” said professor Ian Maitland. “And picking fights is generally what companies don’t want to do.”

First of two articles

The warnings were everywhere. They were loud and clear. But tin ears don’t hear, and blinders can block out the clouds of political fallout. That happens to businessmen sometimes. It seems to have happened to Target Corp.’s chairman, president and CEO, Gregg Steinhafel.

The first alert came from the very U.S. Supreme Court justice who wrote the opinion that changed the political money game. Other red flags were raised by prescient experts in Washington, D.C., and even, one source said, within Target itself.

The thoughtful crystal-ball gazers anticipated scrutiny and reaction, although nothing like this, nothing like protest rallies, Facebook campaigns and Moveon.org petitions.

Somehow, Steinhafel wasn’t listening, wasn’t looking or got carried away with his own political views, a shortcoming known to afflict many corporate chiefs, according to one academic study.

Yes, Steinhafel followed the letter of the law. He was totally within bounds of new corporate political giving rules in the country and in Minnesota when he contributed $150,000 of his company’s funds to a group committed to issues important to the state’s biggest companies.

But Steinhafel broke an unwritten rule.

“Getting into politics means picking fights,” said professor Ian Maitland, a corporate governance expert at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management. “And picking fights is generally what companies don’t want to do.”

Now Steinhafel, who heads one of Minnesota’s most familiar and beloved companies, has become the national poster boy for the dangers of participating in our 21st-century form of democracy in which six-figure speech may be trumping free speech.

Kennedy’s warning
Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy warned Steinhafel. Not personally, of course, but almost as a high-school principal might in a take-home letter to parents. Kennedy alerted Steinhafel and other CEOs last January in the opinion — “Citizens United v. FCC” — that decided that corporations, as if they were human beings, have free speech rights, too, and that corporations could contribute shareholders’ money to so-called “independent expenditures” during political campaigns.

Gregg Steinhafel
Gregg Steinhafel

In Minnesota, companies can’t give directly to candidates, but to other organizations which pay for messages that support candidates or trash opposing candidates. Because of the Supreme Court’s ruling, for the first time, companies with shareholders, employees and customers could use their general funds to independently back candidates … just so long as there is no coordination between the corporations and the candidates’ campaigns.

That ruling opened the door for Steinhafel’s Target Corp. and others to walk through. But as that right was granted, so, too, were consequences, intended or not. Borrowing some previous legal language from his colleague Justice Anton Scalia, Kennedy urged caution.

“With the advent of the Internet, prompt disclosure of [political] expenditures can provide shareholders and citizens with the information needed to hold corporations and elected officials accountable for their positions and supporters,” Kennedy wrote.

“Shareholders can determine whether their corporation’s political speech advances the corporation’s interest in making profits, and citizens can see whether elected officials are [quoting Scalia] ” ‘in the pocket’ of so-called moneyed interests” . . . The First Amendment protects political speech and disclosure permits citizens and shareholders to react to the speech of corporate entities in a proper way. This transparency enables the electorate to make informed decisions and give proper weight to different speakers and messages.”

It was as if Justice Kennedy were saying: “Mr. Steinhafel, be careful.”

Soon after the Supreme Court ruling, conversations internally at Target, according to one source — and in executive-directed literature nationwide — advised corporate leaders and general counsels to tread lightly into this new game of corporate-backed political contributions.

In the publication, Executive Counsel, widely read by corporate lawyers, two Washington-based experts cautioned corporations: “There will likely be dozens of political reporters (and even more Internet bloggers) monitoring the political activity of corporations … The absence of good internal procedures for reviewing, approving and disclosing [contributions to independent expenditure groups] will expose companies to unwanted legal exposure and harm to their reputations.”

The amber lights of political risk and brand-damaging were flashing. But, no matter, in Minnesota, forces were gathering, and the idea of raising money — lots of it — was circulating, and not just on the corporate side. (See righthand column for fundraising details.)

On the left wing of campaign fundraising, unions and the usual suspects of progressive-cause bankrolling were mobilizing, too. Liberals recognized that with corporations given virtual carte blanche to begin independently funding political messages in Minnesota, there was no time to waste. Companies, with millions of dollars, would soon jump into the independent expenditure pool, aiding candidates or promoting issues that were sympathetic to corporate interests: no new taxes, government spending cuts, education “reform.” With the Minnesota governor’s race at stake, with the Republicans controlling that office for more than two decades, this was a seminal political moment.

By June 16, a limited liability corporation called MN Forward was born, an outgrowth of the Minnesota Business Partnership and the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, two of the state’s leading business associations, generally aligned with the Republican Party.

Soon, Brian McClung, Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s former spokesman and deputy chief of staff, was named to run MN Forward’s day-to-day operations. Charlie Weaver, a former Republican legislator and Pawlenty chief of staff, heads the Business Partnership.

On the progressive side, the Alliance for a Better Minnesota, born three years earlier, began to crank up its fundraising on the strength of contributions from the 2010 Fund political action committee and the WIN Minnesota committee, two liberal funds.

WIN and 2010 are led by Ken Martin, a veteran Democratic political operative who has run campaigns in Minnesota for John Kerry and Mike Hatch and who directed the successful Clean Water, Land and Legacy state constitutional amendment effort in 2008. That effort got the biggest single vote in Minnesota history of any issue or candidate.

The war was on. In its first skirmish — the first commercial aired by MN Forward in mid-July — Steinhafel and the treasured Target reputation were caught in the cross fire of rapid response, web mania and, seemingly, the ancillary issue of gay rights — all because of the lightning-rod nature of Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer.

Tom Emmer
MinnPost/Terry Gydesen
Tom Emmer

MN Forward wanted its message to be about job creation, but Emmer’s views on abortion and gay rights were pushed by opponents.

“It’s no surprise that organizations that differ with the candidates we are supporting would speak out against companies that are supporting our efforts,” said MN Forward’s McClung. “We were expecting some of that, but what is unique here is that MN Forward is focused on issues related strictly to jobs and the economy, and those who are criticizing us are trying to ignite a debate about social issues.”

Actually, Emmer’s opponents, especially the Alliance for a Better Minnesota, are committed to defining him, in any way they can, as a right-wing extremist.

With Minnesota’s August primary just five days away and the general election in less than three months, this blitzkrieg of independent expenditures has just begun. Meanwhile, a federal lawsuit is under way, and fund-raising continues aggressively on both sides, with predictions that at least $15 million of independent expenditures will be poured into the 2010 governor’s race.

The aftershocks of Target’s $150,000 contribution to MN Forward are being felt as far away as California, where the announced plans for two new downtown San Francisco stores are now meeting some opposition from gay and community activists.

What changed?
For years, organizations like the Minnesota Chamber and Business Partnership raised money from individuals. Affiliated political action committees — or PACs — then funneled money to aid political campaigns. What’s new since the Supreme Court ruling is that corporations — public and private, for-profit and not-for-profit — can now write checks to so-called “independent expenditure” committees, such as MN Forward, and those dollars can be used to produce commercials and direct mail that support “political activities” — that is, campaigns.

Brian McClung
Brian McClung

Here’s how MN Forward works, according to McClung.

Weaver and Chamber President David Olson approach business leaders and make a simple pitch: MN Forward supports candidates for governor and the state Legislature “that understand the importance of creating private sector jobs . . . The mission is to be a voice for job providers and to ensure those issues are at the top of the agenda,” said McClung.

Thus, Emmer is their guy, because he has voted with Chamber issues more than 90 percent of the time, as opposed to DFL candidates Margaret Anderson Kelliher, Matt Entenza and Mark Dayton, who are down in the 20- and 30-percent range.

On legislative races, which MN Forward will also take part in, McClung said: “We do not make any commitment as to which candidates we will support” when seeking funds from corporate leaders. “Those are decisions left to the leadership of MN Forward,” meaning Weaver and Olson.

McClung said soon — perhaps as early as today — MN Forward will be endorsing six legislative candidates, including three DFLers. Thus, corporate dough, including Target’s will be backing Dems, too.

“Why don’t you ask the Alliance for Better Minnesota if they’re going to support any Republicans?” McClung suggested.

The answer is no.

Left of center
The Alliance for a Better Minnesota is unabashed in bashing Emmer — it has already put together three aggressive anti-Emmer ads — and in its support of the election of a DFL governor. The Alliance is a spender of state-focused money from the two other fund-raising organizations that funnel cash to it.

Alliance Executive Director Denise Cardinal said they haven’t decided if the Alliance will endorse any legislative candidates. The focus of commercials and messaging is on the governor’s contest.

“It’s to get a true progressive in the governor’s office — that’s what we’ve all agreed,” Cardinal said of her financial backers.

Said Ken Martin of WIN Minnesota and the 2010 Fund: “I care deeply about electing a Democratic governor in the state.”

As much as corporations are backing MN Forward, a group of well-known wealthy Minnesota liberals are funding the Alliance: Alida Rockefeller Messinger — who happens to be Mark Dayton’s ex-wife; John Cowles, former owner of the Star Tribune, and his spouse, Sage; and longtime Democratic lawyer and funder Vance Opperman.

Then there is a host of labor unions. Already the Alliance has backed tough commercials defining Emmer as someone who voted to lessen drunk-driving penalties after being charged with two DWIs himself.

Among the Alliance’s biggest funders are large labor unions, including Education Minnesota, the teachers union, which has already given $250,000, and AFSCME, a public employees union with 43,000 members in the state, which has given $100,000.
   
In this debate about corporate money, some conservative critics wonder about the role of unions. What, they wonder, is the difference between Target contributing $150,000 to a pro-business group while teachers, nurses and state employees unions also give six-figure checks to a different independent-expenditure group.

Unions protest such comparisons. While data show that unions — in all campaign contributions nationwide — give more across the board to Democrats than business groups do to Republicans, Eliot Seide of Minnesota’s AFSCME District Council 5, said his union has on occasion backed Republican lawmakers and county commissioners.

A union is a group of individuals, and in many cases, members may opt out of contributing to their union’s political activity. For instance, at Education Minnesota, a non-participating member receives a $10 rebate annually, a spokesman said. At AFSCME, a calculated percentage of a member’s dues is refunded if he or she decides not to contribute to the union’s political giving.

AFSCME’s Seide said that dues-paying members meet and decide on endorsements, that members can remove officers in union elections every two years if they are unhappy with union contributions, and that he can be fired at will if his members are unhappy with the political endorsements he recommends.

“I doubt that the Target CEO asked his employees what they thought about” the contribution to MN Forward before the company sent its money, Seide said. (Steinhafel did not.)

In the end, when the gubernatorial campaign is over, it will be fascinating to add up all the cash and see who wins — the local corporations or the unions and the liberals. Right now, McClung is pleased to point out, the liberals have raised more than $2.1 million to the conservatives’ $1.1 million.

Rep. Ryan Winkler
Rep. Ryan Winkler

But Rep. Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, who helped shepherd a strict disclosure law through the Legislature at the end of last session, predicted MN Forward will far out-raise the Alliance.

“Unions can’t go toe to toe with the corporations,” he said, predicting MN Forward would pour up to $10 million into the governor’s contest and legislative races.

On the left, there seems to be a unified notion that the Citizens United decision is bad for democracy, that the more money pouring in via huge amounts from corporations, the more the little person with his or her $50 contribution will get drowned out.

As Mike Dean, executive director of Common Cause said, “When I give $50 to a candidate, I’m not expecting something in return. What is Target hoping to get in return for its $150,000?”

McClung said all MN Forward’s funders want is a governor and legislators who support Chamber and Business Partnership policies, and Emmer is their guy. There are no promises being made.

The Supreme Court asserted in the Citizens United case that “independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption. That speakers may have influence over or access to elected officials does not mean that those officials are corrupt. And the appearance of influence or access will not cause the electorate to lose faith in this democracy.”

Maybe so, but some voters — active, noisy, progressive, web-savvy voters — continue to examine the case of Gregg Steinhafel and the role of the Target board of directors, and wonder what they knew and when they knew it.

What’s clear is that in Minnesota corporate political contributions will come at a cost, and Target’s Minnesota problem is a national problem that will soon find its epicenter in the biggest state of all, California.

Friday: Steinhafel, Target’s California dilemma, and a federal case on tap.

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Comments (40)

  1. Submitted by Jim Halonen on 08/05/2010 - 10:56 am.

    If I was Target, I would donate another 150K to MN Forward. Business friendly policy would more than make up the lost revenue from the far left boycotters.

  2. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 08/05/2010 - 11:25 am.

    Clearly some of us don’t know who Target’s customers are. Target has been the store of choice for progressive types who avoid Walmart for all the well-known reasons: exactly the types of customers who have also been appreciative of Target’s gay-friendly stances in many areas.

    In other words, progressive folks have formed the core of Target’s customer base. The reduction of Target’s sale numbers will, very likely, reflect the offense taken by its many progressive customers at the MNForward donation.

    Meanwhile, the people who most share Mr. Steinhafel’s predilections and political views are already shopping at Walmart and will not be likely to change their own shopping habits.

    It’s also quite likely that those who held Target (and Best Buy, for that matter) stock because of those company’s reputation as “progressive” are selling off their shares, thereby driving down the value of those stocks.

  3. Submitted by Gail O'Hare on 08/05/2010 - 11:26 am.

    I don’t consider myself far left. However, I will spend money where I can be reasonably sure it won’t fund candidates I oppose. Being reasonably sure is going to be hard, though, so I very much appreciate media focusing on companies’ contributions. I have little money of my own to contribute, but at least I can buy toilet paper and detergent from companies that support candidates and causes I believe in.
    That means companies that in no way fund racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-immigrant, and pro-greed agendas.

  4. Submitted by Dave Thompson on 08/05/2010 - 11:41 am.

    The problem that Target is running into is, the Minnesota GOP chose to run a tone-deaf extremist for governor. Target should be supporting business-friendly positions, not individual candidates.

  5. Submitted by Brian Simon on 08/05/2010 - 11:44 am.

    Given his positions on lowering the corporate and sales tax rates, I wonder why allegedly non-partisan MN Forward hasn’t promoted Tom Horner as a ‘business friendly’ candidate.

  6. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 08/05/2010 - 12:00 pm.

    The lesson here should be that when you try to shut people up, it has unintended consequences.

    By trying to hurt Target financially in an attempt to shut Emmer up, they risk:

    1. Hurting their own side by affecting Target’s ability to contribute to them.
    2. Hurt working class employees whose jobs depend on a financially healthy Target.
    3. Hurt pensioners and 401k investors by driving Target’s stock price and dividends down.
    4. Hurt your cause when people see your side as intolerant of other points of view.

  7. Submitted by Jeremy Powers on 08/05/2010 - 12:38 pm.

    Dennis

    I realize I don’t represent another “side” but I don’t want Target to spend a nickel on politics – of either side. People are born with inalienable rights. But corporations are artificial life forms. Their rights are given them by humans. Now they have more rights than humans do. Taken to a not-too-far extreme, corporations will not only own everything in this country – they nearly do now – but will tell people where to sit, when to get up and what to think.

    Your other points are backwards. If someone does something wrong, you don’t defend them by saying: “What will become of his/her family.” You blame the person who did something wrong and say: “Look what you did to your family.” What Target did is not illegal, but clearly for a majority of Americans it is morally reprehensible.

  8. Submitted by Mitch Anderson on 08/05/2010 - 12:46 pm.

    No Dennis, I think the lesson is that when a corporation publicly aligns itself with a candidate, that corporation is then lumped together with ALL of said candidate’s political views. It doesn’t matter what Steinhafel’s intentions were, only public perception matters. Like it or not, money for MN Forward is money that goes toward electing an anti-gay mariage, anti-abortion and anti-minimum wage governor.

    The really crazy thing is how all the blowback has almost exclusively been toward Target. Best Buy, Polaris and Hubbard Broadcasting all gave six figures to MN Forward as well, but they’re no more than footnotes in most stories on the subject. They should all thank Target for taking a public relations bullet for the team here.

  9. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 08/05/2010 - 12:53 pm.

    The nonsense here is in the ridiculous legal fiction that an organization is a person. Furthermore, corporations are composed of shareholders who may not agree with what the corporation is advertising but they have no say. That is democracy in reverse.

    But having said all that. Target is a good corporate donor to the community. When all is said and done, Target will still be a good donor because that is a part of who they are.

  10. Submitted by Steve Rose on 08/05/2010 - 12:56 pm.

    Dave (#4): Target’s contribution was to MN Forward, not to Emmer. MN Forward provides support to both GOP and DFL candidates. As Mr. Weiner pointed out, “In Minnesota, companies can’t give directly to candidates, but to other organizations which pay for messages that support candidates or trash opposing candidates.”

    Greg (#2): I just checked Target’s stock, and they are up 2.5% today. The reference companies in their market space, Walmart, Costco, and Dollar General, are all down. Target share price crossed the $53 line today, a high for the week.

  11. Submitted by Cecil North on 08/05/2010 - 01:02 pm.

    Dennis, is it your idea that, as consumers, we should not pay any attention to the policies and practices of the businesses we support? Are you suggesting that we have some sort of obligation to shop at Target?

    Emmer has a right to express his views, however pernicious, and Target has the right, thanks to Citizens United, to support Emmer through MN Forward. All well and good. However, Target has to realize that there are consequences to inserting itself into political races, especially in these contentious times. Maybe Steinhafel should have taken that into consideration before he risked the jobs of his employees and the 401k’s of Target retirees?

    Why is it especially intolerant to try to avoid indirectly financially supporting a candidate who you would not vote for by not shopping at Target??

  12. Submitted by andy on 08/05/2010 - 01:02 pm.

    Nobody’s trying to shut up Emmer- even without Citizen’s United he would have had a damn big megaphone to shout at Minnesotans through. I pity the citizens of states without disclosure laws like ours- from now ’till november there will be nothing but screaming ads funded by shadowy corporate donors demanding that the citizens of those states vote against their own interests. “Free Speech” as practiced by these “people” just means drowning out the opposition- and that’s no free speech at all…

  13. Submitted by Annie Grandy on 08/05/2010 - 01:20 pm.

    I might, might, believe the euphemistic “The mission is to be a voice for job providers” claim of MN Forward and be less critical of Target’s contribution if 1. “job providers” meant providing jobs not lining greedy executives pockets and 2. if executives’ pay at corporations had not spiked from the acceptable 40 to 1 ratio of the average workers’ pay to nearly 400 to 1 while unemployment has gone through the roof. Nice try Mr. Steinhafel, you won’t be using my hard earned dollars to support your chosen candidates. I am so glad I live in Minnesota which has had the good sense to make these contributions transparent. Now, it’s time to go after Best Buy which gave $150,000, too. Corporations should stay out of political campaigns. They already have lobbyists working for their exploitation of the middle class.

  14. Submitted by Ed Kohler on 08/05/2010 - 01:24 pm.

    @Dennis, hypothetically, what if people shifted their ad spend from Target to companies that are locally owned (rather than locally based)? And, what if they shifted funds to companies who sold a larger percentage of locally produced products? Wouldn’t both of those actions do more for our local economy by keeping money circulation locally for longer?

  15. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 08/05/2010 - 01:25 pm.

    A tube of toothpaste gets a real workout in the staff washroom at Minnpost, and I’m all for economy.

    The problem I see is that you folks are so intent on getting every last molecule out of the tube, you can’t tell when you are brushing with air.

    Halitosis is no joke, my friends.

  16. Submitted by Paul Scott on 08/05/2010 - 01:31 pm.

    Fantastic review of this entire issue. Thank you very much. I will donate to Minnpost for your thorough and balanced reporting here.

    I think Greg puts his finger on the extremity of the negative response against Target when he articulates that Target was the choice for many of us who could not bring ourselves to ship at Wal Mart.

    After reading this, it strikes me that the party to blame might be the Chamber, which set up a “pro-business” rating in which a burn down the house ideologue like Emmer gets 90 points, and poiticians trying to foster good schools roads bridges and health get a 20. In what kind of a screw everyone else vision does that seem “bad for busines.”

    Surely Target — or Steinhafel, that is –gets the blame for trusting a partisan hack like McClung to decide where to ruin their reputation, but the GOPalso gets the blame for selecting Emmer — I doubt Seifert would have engendered this kind of dispesia — and yes, though I don’t support him, I don’t know why the chamber can’t give to a Tom Horner or even Entenza.

    Conclusion, the Chamber is run by old school thinkers, caught unaware that the GOP does not stand for what they think it stands for.

  17. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 08/05/2010 - 01:43 pm.

    “MN Forward provides support to both GOP and DFL candidates.”

    Thereby ensuring that they are going to alienate everyone.

    The dispute hasn’t had much impact on Target shares one way or the other. They reported monthly same store sales, a metric retail investors follow, after the close of trading yesterday, and the market reaction is mildly positive. However, in the long term, Target’s decision to intervene could damage their brand. The decision by Target executives to put their brand at risk in this manner is hard to understand.

  18. Submitted by John Olson on 08/05/2010 - 02:02 pm.

    Richard, perhaps a more succinct way of summarizing your comment (which I agree with) is brick and mortar do not vote.

  19. Submitted by Karl Bremer on 08/05/2010 - 02:15 pm.

    For the record, here’s the complete list of MN Backward donors as of today:

    Target ($150,000)
    Pentair ($125K)
    Best Buy ($100K)
    Davisco Foods ($100K)
    Hubbard Broadcasting ($100K)
    Polaris Industries ($100K)
    Regis ($100K)
    Securian ($100K)
    Federated Insurance ($100K)
    Red Wing Shoes ($50K)
    Cold Spring Granite ($35K)
    Holiday ($25K)
    Insurance Federation of Minnesota ($10K)
    Rodney Burwell, Xerxes Corp. ($20K)
    Minnesota Trucking Association ($5K)

    Besides Tom Emmer, St. Paul law firm Winthrop & Weinstein, Norm Coleman’s former home, seems to have reaped the most locally from the group so far, collecting nearly $22,000 in legal services. (Brian) McClung Communications and Public Relations has collected $10,000 so far for “management consulting.”

  20. Submitted by Rebecca Hoover on 08/05/2010 - 02:17 pm.

    Let’s face it, the companies that alienate shoppers by supporting extremist and even cruel candidates like Emmer can’t survive. Will that hurt the economy, shareholders, etc., in the longer term? No way, we will all be better off when these types of companies bite the dust.

    Let’s hope that consumers take note of the values of Target, Best Buy, Polaris and Hubbard Broadcasting and take their business elsewhere. The sooner they are history, the better. By the way, many employees of these companies also complain about the way these companies treat people.

  21. Submitted by Danny McConnell on 08/05/2010 - 02:17 pm.

    Richard,
    Do you also think its a “ridiculous legal fiction” that a union is a person?

    I’m not trying to pick a fight, but I believe there is a double standard here.

    Level the playing field, how about neither unions nor corporations are allowed to make political donations.

  22. Submitted by Rich Crose on 08/05/2010 - 02:48 pm.

    These corporations must be trying to calculate the risk right now. If they donate $150,000 to Emmer, he would have to give them a $20 million dollar tax break/government subsidy/lenient import law in order to make up for the net loss of customers if a customer is worth $600 a year. With a company the size of Target, they can probably put a precise value on a liberal customer, a conservative customer, a gay customer, a married customer, etc.

    Imagine the CEO presenting to the Board of Directors that they should trade 7,000 gay males and 1,200 liberal housewives for a free-trade agreement with China.

  23. Submitted by Tony Wagner on 08/05/2010 - 03:58 pm.

    I’ve always thought that an anti-gay-marriage stance was rather anti-business — Target should want happy, tax-paying homosexual workers/consumers in our state (and across the nation and world). Is that enough to support Emmer over a Democrat? Maybe not, but it might make it close enough that it would be in Target’s best interests to just keep quiet about it.

    Funny thing is, the Target executives who made this decision could have easily paid for the donation from their personal salaries. Obviously I understand why they would prefer to use company funds, but then again, the results of the election at this point seem more likely to affect their individual pocketbooks rather than Target’s bottom line anyway.

    Personally, I think the differences in traditional “business credentials” of Republicans vs. Democrats are overblown. We’ve seen administrations/legislatures/congresses from both sides of the aisle at the helm during all sorts of business cycles — how much can you really credit/blame one party or the other?

  24. Submitted by Steve Rose on 08/05/2010 - 04:17 pm.

    Note to Moderator:

    Since eight messages have been posted since I submitted my last post, I am left to assume that it did not make the grade. I suspect that it is due to the last paragraph. Therefore, I re-submit, paragraph below, for your approval less the last paragraph.

    Thanks, Steve

    This report and the subsequent discussion is effectively a Target commercial. Look at the photo at the top of the page; Target colors red and white, Target bull’s eye, “Target Greatland”, and “Target” on the cart. Do you know how much money it costs to put that Target bull’s eye on the hood of a NASCAR? We are all willing participants in this free advertising of Target.

  25. Submitted by David Willard on 08/05/2010 - 05:40 pm.

    Bottom line, the professional hand-wringers and whiners win, but they will never be happy. To the tax and spend machine in politics on the Left we can posit, how much is enough? The question is never answered because they are engaging in a quest where their faith is based in policy, government and politicians. That is a trinity that cannot do anything but fail their followers at some turn. So the nasty Right-Wingers need to be demonized. Can’t be God/Government’s fault… What would Wellstone Do indeed.

  26. Submitted by John Reinan on 08/05/2010 - 05:48 pm.

    I think this is getting so much attention now because it’s a new issue. It won’t always be that way.

    I believe corporations will find it in their interests to spend money in support of candidates they perceive as favorable to their viewpoints and bottom lines.

    Corporate spending on political races will become common, and it will be nearly impossible to keep track of it all, especially with a fragmented and weakened media. Eventually people will stop paying close attention — when there are hundreds of corporations giving money to dozens of candidates, in every political cycle, then corporate donations will become part of the general political background noise.

    People will throw up their hands and write it off as business as usual, except for a few very devoted advocates who will continue trying to spread the word about who’s giving what to whom. The rest will shrug their shoulders because there won’t be much they can do about it.

  27. Submitted by David Willard on 08/05/2010 - 05:50 pm.

    I love the self-satisfied, unctuous piety on display here in a lot of the comments sections on Minnpost, but especially on this article, Progressyves! It’s like candy to me. What a hoot. Thank you soo much!

  28. Submitted by Ginny Martin on 08/05/2010 - 08:47 pm.

    How much is enough? The question is never answered because it does not make sense. Enough for what? Enough for who? For good schools K-12? For roads and bridges that don’t fall down and are full of potholes? For higher education?–although I’m not sure many of these people care. How about clean water? Maybe a sustainable environment?
    Give your specifics and someone might answer.

  29. Submitted by Ginny Martin on 08/05/2010 - 08:47 pm.

    One more thing: How many of you have noticed the partial Target symbol at the top of the StarTrib front page? I wonder why.

  30. Submitted by Tony George on 08/06/2010 - 07:16 am.

    Greg Steinhafel may have apologized, but Target still has not renounced the candicacy of anti-gay Tom Emmer. The boycott continues.

  31. Submitted by Tony George on 08/06/2010 - 08:13 am.

    Wouldn’t it be refreshing to have a major corporation which was able to go beyond vicious untra-right wing Tea Party politics?

  32. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 08/06/2010 - 09:11 am.

    //MN Forward is focused on issues related strictly to jobs and the economy, and those who are criticizing us are trying to ignite a debate about social issues.”

    This is pretty rich coming form a party that’s spent the last 50 perfecting the art of the wedge by turning every election into a debate about social issues.

    By the way, isn’t Steinhafel the same guy that made the news a while back apposing the sale of a school in his neighborhood to a group working with troubled teens? You’d think he’s a learned something from that experience.

    I think all elections should be publicly funded and contributions from corporations and Unions should be banned. The idea that corporations have the same rights as individuals has always been daft. The problem with corporate/union donations is that CEO’s are supporting chosen political candidates and organizations with other peoples money not their own, and they do so without consent. I also think we need to implement some kind of equal time rules during election cycles so candidates can respond to bogus ads run by these “independent” groups regardless of financial disadvantage.

  33. Submitted by Tony George on 08/06/2010 - 10:23 am.

    I suspect Greg Steinhafel is the wrong man for Target.

  34. Submitted by Ginny Martin on 08/06/2010 - 11:27 am.

    I am heartened by the uproar. Maybe if corporations can expect opposition when they make contributions to groups like MN Forward with such unpopular, backward looking agendas, they’ll be a little more wary. Maybe this kind of attention to what the U.S. Supreme Court decision really means for us ordinary people of all stripes will result in new legislation curbing that decision’s effects.

  35. Submitted by Hénock Gugsa on 08/06/2010 - 11:48 am.

    @ # 34, Tony:

    I tend to agree with you on that.

    When you think of it … if any Target employee made a mistake with initial cost of $150K and undetermined eventual business damage, they would be canned on the spot. But Mr. Shteinehoofel gets away with it with nary a reprimand, and a big wink from Minnesota’s Chamber of Commerce. I bet he is still looking forward to a sizable bonus and a tax cut at the end of the year.

  36. Submitted by Bill Toppson on 08/07/2010 - 02:41 pm.

    There is no longer any freedom of speech in politics. We see anyone who is not Politically Correct as someone to shout down, to exile, to boycott. If you disagree with a certain life style you will be called names like homophobic. Even if you support a candidate only for a business reason you will be attacked by the press who act as the PC police. In politics today you can’t be religious, you can’t be for families, you can’t even support traditional America.

  37. Submitted by scott gibson on 08/07/2010 - 03:36 pm.

    Re: #38
    Whenever I hear this plaint:”There is no longer any freedom of speech in politics.”, I wonder what the poster means. Target is free to do what they did. Emmer is free to do what he did. AND others are free to respond the way they did, advocating boycotts, etc. Target is not being attacked by “the press”, they’re being attacked by individuals who don’t agree with what they did. Same for Tom Emmer. That is free speech too, of course. And who are you, Bill Toppson to decide what traditional America is? Or who the PC police are? It merely means you have a disagreement with what constitutes America. You are just finding out that many other good Americans feel differently than you do.

  38. Submitted by Dion Goldman on 08/07/2010 - 04:20 pm.

    People who have a problem with any company’s policies have boycotted said companies successfully.

    See: boycott of Swiss company Nestle that began at U of M in the 70’s; from Nestle’s marketing powdered infant forumla in Africa, causing infant malnutrtion/death. Also see: divestment of S. Africa until Apartheid was ended. Such efforts do have an effect.

    If people choose to boycott Target, Best Buy, KSTP(Hubbard owned)or divest their holdings in the same, it will be noticed.

    Free enterprise will allow you to choose another place to shop or invest your 401K.

    Freedom to choose is everyone’s right. No apologies needed. This is good for free enterprize and the country.

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