Target CEO does damage control on MN Forward contribution

Target’s CEO is doing damage control over a contribution the company gave to MN Forward, a group that is supporting Republican Tom Emmer’s bid for governor. MN Forward starting running TV ads last week supporting Emmer which prompted a backlash from GLBT groups.

Today, Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel sent a letter to Target employees explaining the contribution and their position on GLBT rights. Here’s the letter:

Dear Target Team,

In the past week I’ve heard from some of you, including our GLBT team members, regarding your concerns with Target’s recent contributions to MN Forward, an independent expenditure committee that is supported by a broad coalition of large and small businesses throughout the state, including the Minnesota Business Partnership and the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce.

As you know, Target has a history of supporting organizations and candidates, on both sides of the aisle, who seek to advance policies aligned with our business objectives, such as job creation and economic growth. MN Forward is focused specifically on those issues and is committed to supporting candidates from any party who will work to improve the state’s job climate. However, it is also important to note that we rarely endorse all advocated positions of the organizations or candidates we support, and we do not have a political or social agenda.

In the context of this contribution, some of you have raised questions regarding our commitment to diversity, and more specifically, the GLBT community. Let me be very clear, Target’s support of the GLBT community is unwavering, and inclusiveness remains a core value of our company. Some current examples of that support include:

• Domestic Partner Benefits

• Sponsorship of Twin Cities Pride

• Sponsorship of Out & Equal Workplace Summit

In addition, Target’s rating of 100% on the 2009 and 2010 Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index further demonstrates the reputation our company has earned.

As CEO, I consider it my responsibility to create conditions in which Target can thrive, and I promise to do so with the best interests of our guests, team, shareholders and communities in mind. I appreciate your input and understanding.

Sincerely,

Gregg Steinhafel

Chairman, President and CEO

Target

Update: Gregg Steinhafel and his wife gave $2,000 each to Emmer. That’s the maximum amount allowed by law.

  • Translation: DFL & IP candidates would bankrupt our company and put you all out of a job fringe benefits and all.

  • Adam

    I’m still not shopping at Target for the foreseeable future. $150K? Geez.

  • Gretchen

    I agree with AAA. And I’ll be boycotting for the foreseeable future, as well. Costco & Walgreens support MY interests, and can supply my needs just fine, thank you.

    I also strongly disagree with his assertion that MN Forward (backward?) is supported by a “broad coalition” – last I checked, there were only four – FOUR – corporations that had monetarily contributed.

  • How will people react to the “we know it’s wrong, but it’s just business” explanation?

    Also, I wonder how much it’s costing Target in lost productivity to explain a political contribution that is out of line with their corporate culture?

  • Sharon

    If Target wants to hide behind the Business Partnership and the Chamber, then maybe they should allow those groups to fund these types of efforts. I will never shop at Target, no matter how they spin this.

  • Garrett Peterson

    I would urge you that are upset about this to send letters and make calls to Target. It’s very short-sighted for Target to be making these political contributions. They should also be prepared to explain this waste of money to their shareholders.

  • Dear Gregg:

    You claim ” MN Forward, *(is) an independent expenditure committee that is supported by a broad coalition of large and small businesses throughout the state, including the Minnesota Business Partnership and the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce,” might be an acceptable characterization if you would grant me that the same latitude were I or someone to claim the KKK is an educational organization supported by prominent members of large and small businesses, the clergy and government…

    A polite word for your assertion, that is, is codswallop–conscious distortion and equivocation. That’s plain,old-fashioned CorpoRat sophistry.

  • Alex

    Target got big enough to be hated. There will be more of this in the future. Some people may run out of places to shop soon. Walmart is bad, Target is bad, who’s next?

  • It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that Target donates (however indirectly) to GOP candidates that are “good for business.” We should all remember that Target does also spend a fair amount of money supporting GLBT organizations (add the annual Rainbow Families conference to that list).

    I’ll also remind people that it’s not uncommon for corporate culture and corporate spending to be out of line with each other. Another example is Wells Fargo, who did their fair share of predatory lending, but is generally regarded as having a pretty inclusive corporate culture (and is another company with a huge presence at Pride).

    That said, that doesn’t make this okay. Emmer’s a more egregious choice than many. Minnesotans are pretty forgiving of Target, so to hear more than a little speak of boycott says this is a pretty big deal.

    Comments I’ve heard/read from people outside of MN seem to think that MN is pretty not-gay-friendly and this is somehow not surprising in that regard. That, to me, is the saddest part.

  • Jamie

    Target/Steinhafel gave a big chunk of money to a similar group that was instrumental in defeating Mike Hatch (in 2006?), too.

    It’s not just insulting to gay people that Target/Steinhafel supports Republicans. They are supporting a party that’s all about hate and controlling women and demonizing and slapping down poor people, while they try to make the gap between rich and poor ever bigger.

  • bsimon

    Gregg Steinhafel writes

    “Target has a history of supporting organizations and candidates… who seek to advance policies aligned with our business objectives, such as job creation and economic growth. ”

    I’m curious to hear what he thinks those policies are, as espoused by the Emmer campaign. For one thing, the Emmer campaign has been particularly vague about what their economic or job growth policies are – beyond perhaps cutting taxes to ‘create jobs’. How tax cuts – when we’re already suffering from an enormous budget deficit – actually create jobs is left unexplained. In fact, wouldn’t tax cuts, if accompanied by the huge cuts to state spending that would be necessary to balance the budget, actually add to the rolls of unemployment? Would putting more people on the dole really be a boon to Target corp? Perhaps, I guess, if the desperate and poverty stricken are a core customer base. Maybe that’s their corporate strategy – grow the customer base by growing the population of consumers desperate for the cheapest junk they can find.

  • AAA

    I see the non-partisan open minded tolerant left found this thread. [snark]

    Wow, that last one by “jamie” managed to fit every talking point into one rant. Of course, completely untrue, but closed minds lead to unproductive debates and useless comments that lower the collective intelligence of our Republic.

  • Mot

    It seems if Target really wants to support business friendly candidates that are inline with their culture they should support Moderates. Hell, dust off Arne Carlson and Al Quie. Those two had the good sense to balance the budget and stay out of social issues.

  • Bickidan

    What are you going to do, shop at *gasp* WALMART? Bahahahaha!

  • BBB

    Everyone here needs to come back to earth. I listen to MPR and watch Fox news as well as other sources… If your stance is that all republicans are anti GLBT then I would say you are guilty of profiling and prejuduce. Unfortunately left wing nut cases spend more time online and in coffee shops blogging and commenting on these pages than the rest of us middle of the road people who are busy working hard.

  • DT Steve

    Nice Try Gregg. When you elect a candidate you elect his whole agenda. You can’t just elect Emmer for fiscal issues and somebody else for social issues. But, we’ve learned what you think is most important — your tax break.

    I work downtown and used to stop at the Target a few times a week to buy lunch items, household items, etc. It was my one-stop-shop, and constitued most of the retail entries on my checking account log each month. I haven’t been there since this news first came out, and don’t plan on going back.

  • DT Steve

    BBB, most of us realize that all Republicans aren’t anti-gay, but Emmer sure is.

  • youpeoplearedelusional

    I am guessing that most of the commenters here would have NO problem with Target contributing to a DFL candidate. Please tell me how bigger government enhances your lives? The create nothing of value…just seek to control the mindless lot who live their lives in envy of others more successful.

    Note to bsimon…most of us budget our spending to income. The goverment is the ONLY one that says I want what I want and if I don’t hafve money, I will just over tax the masses to get it. Private businesses create jobs based upon the creation of good and services needed. So incenting them with tax cuts to create jobs is how you do it.

    I want everyone to go home, look around your home and your lives at everything that makes your life better and easier and tell me if it was the goverment that provided that or was it a private company. Modern medicine, transportation, your homes, your hobbies, your modern conveniences were ALL created by corporate america.

    But then again, the liberals in the country have created following of class envy in this country that is astounding!

  • youaredelusional

    @youpeoplearedelusional

    Ummmmm, yes, it is true, the government did not provide me with a TV, computer, toaster, and classy looking dishes if I may say so. Let us consider what the government did do. My toaster doesn’t start on fire. TV? Remember when televisions emitted dangerous levels of radiation? Clean drinking water? Check. Show me a place in the world with private drinking water and say its great. You’re right, I miss the days of medical treatment of tonics and magic balms. Free market-Bayer sold us the safe, non-addictive alternative to morphine…Heroin. It’s complicated, and not black and white. Besides, although dems spend and tax, number wise, repubs spend way more while cutting taxes. Whose fiscally responsible? Just some thoughts, I could go on. The point is, there are pros and cons to government, the free market had a place, but it is not an unquestionable law. Take care.

    PS-Everyone: Name calling is for babies, lets stop being trolls.

  • RugbyGuy

    @jamie

    Something that I have never been able to understand is someone with a midset like you have. Without any knowledge of a person’s character, you immediately demonize them if they happen to be high atop the corporate ladder.

    A quick search on Forbes reveals Mr. Steinhafel started at Target in 1979 as a Merchandising Trainee. He has been with the company for thirty-plus years. Sounds to me like he is someone who has worked very hard to achieve the success he currently enjoys. Sounds like he never asked anyone for anything but new he had to work hard to get where he wanted to be.

    Why the instant hostility? Just because he is successful he wants to extend the polarization of our society? Just because he sacraficed for goals he set–sacrafices you are not willing to commit to? You’ll never admit it, but I’ve always thought people of your ilk are very jealous and envious of success, but you don’t have what it takes to achieve it.

    On the contrary, I think Mr. Steinhafel, and many CEOs who you place in the same category, have worked hard to earn what they earn. Furthermore, Mr. Steinhafel should be commended for leading a company that is involved in so many diverse community foundations and programs by committing company funds and resources (in the form of required employee volunteering) to these worthy causes.

    As an aside, obviously I am someone who sides on the right and I definitely do not subscribe to any of your descriptions of Republicans. Tune in to more than just MSNBC of MPR so you can have a unique thought for yourself.

  • Ken Darling

    As a company seeking loyalty from a highly diverse customer-base, Target should not contribute to either political party or to organizations with the primary objective of affecting elections. Most GLBT Minnesotans did not object when Target contributed to Mary’s Place, the kids home loved by conservatives, or other conservative social organizations. But contributing to Emmer or Al Franken or any politician to directly affect public policy is a dangerous path for any highly visible, communitiy-oriented company to do. Target has lost my shopping dollars, too.

  • youpeoplearedelusional

    The Republicans spend more than the Democrats?? Are you kidding? Examples please.

    Well said RugbyGuy!

    Govermennt has a place…..if it is limited in design. This current adminstration and congress have every design to create masses of poor that rely on the goverment for there every need. It is funny how the Republicans are viewed as enemies of the poor when it is the Democrats in power that create the poor class, exploit them for person gains and then tell them how the rich Republicans hate them. Meanwhile, the right-wing corporate america actually creates jobs and opportunities to help them get out from poverty and they are the bad guys.

    Crazy world we live in…..November cannot come soon enough!!

  • youpeoplearedelusional

    Note to Ken Darling

    Target is in business to grow, make profits and create jobs and opportunities. Whether we like it or not, contributing to a political environment friendly to their goals is prudent business practices. I am sorry but if they are pandering to a small segment of the population (roughly 5%), then they are doing their business, their stockholders and their customers a disservice. And before you jump on me for my numbers, here is where I got the 5% number from:

    http://www.urban.org/publications/1000491.html

  • Burglus

    I emailed them and this is there responce

    And yes I will be boycotting too

    Dear Me,

    Target has long believed that engaging in civic activities is an important and necessary element of operating a national retail business. What’s more important than any one candidate’s stance on a particular issue is how we nurture thoughtful, long-term growth in the state of Minnesota. Our support of causes and candidates is based strictly on issues that affect our retail and business objectives. To continue to grow and create jobs and opportunity in our home state, we believe it is imperative to be engaged in public policy and the political process. That is why we are members of organizations like the Minnesota Business Partnership, the Chamber of Commerce and many others. And that is why we decided to contribute to MN Forward. MN Forward’s objective is to elect candidates from both parties who will make job creation and economic growth a top priority. We operate best when working collaboratively with legislators on both sides of the aisle. In fact, if you look at our Federal PAC contributions year to date, you will see that they are very balanced between Republicans and Democrats. For more information please visit http://www.target.com/company, and view the Civic Activity page. Target has a large stake in Minnesota’s future, which is why it is so important to be able to provide jobs, serve guests, support communities and deliver on our commitment to shareholders. As an international business that is proud to call Minnesota home, it is critical that we have a business environment that allows us to be competitive. Our guests, team members, communities and shareholders depend on Target to remain competitive. Thanks for taking the time to share your feedback. Sincerely, Jennifer HansonTarget Executive Offices

  • msp

    Theoretically Target should lose their 100% HRC rating for supporting this group… direct from the criteria

    5./ Responsible citizenship

    No known activity that would undermine LGBT equality

    Let’s see if HRC take a stance

    It seems perfectly reasonable for Target to support their own best interests, but they can’t have it both ways: a perfect score and supporting a group that has stated it would undermine GLBT equality

  • mnguy

    Trying to argue that Emmer or any other candidate should be elected based only on their attitude about business issues is like trying to order a pizza without the dough. If you support a candidate you get all the whole package homophobia included.

    The weird thing about this situation is that the company and Mr. Steinhafel would expose themselves to this obvious and predictable criticism. The company is very protective of their image and this stupid blunder will set them back a ways.

    Maybe they’ll think twice before making more contributions to right wing front groups pretending to be moderate. Meanwhile keep an eye on where the money is going and ignore the happy faced PR campaigns. A lot of corporate execs including Mr. Steinhafel support repubs and have for a long time. You won’t find this on the corporate web site either.

  • RugbyGuy

    @mnguy

    Suppose I change a few words in your last paragraph so it reads:

    “Maybe they’ll think twice before making more contributions to LEFT wing front groups pretending to be moderate.”

    What now? I’m sure you’d be championing Target and all the company has to offer. A very peculiar characteristic of liberal people that I have noticed is the need to TELL others they practice tolerance and openeness. However, it often ends there as just talk. When someone with a dissenting view (and I’m talking about business and profits in this case) you do a complete 180 of what you claimed you would.

    Has the thought ever crossed your mind that a company as influential as Target might be able to assist the cause for groups like the GLBT regardless of who is in office–as they have done for quite some time? I agree with you that you cannot pick and choose the issues of a candidate. When you have the resources of a company like Target, you can donate to the candidate who can strengthen those resources by not oppressing…err…taxing companies to death. In turn, those strengthened resources can be used to aide in causes deemed important to the company and communities in which it resides.

    Have a quick read:

    http://sites.target.com/site/en/company/page.jsp?contentId=WCMP04-031700

    http://www.bestbuy-communityrelations.com/our_partners.htm

    I have a feeling most of you, like you are want to do, have jumped the proverbial gun on this one. MPR hints bad = bad no matter what. The reality is, Target does more for Minnesota and community efforts than you could imagine–even in a recession economy. We need companies like Target and Best Buy in Minnesota regardless of their political contributions.

  • Mike Allen

    Sir, you are full of crapola. Why dont you just come out and tell the truth, instead of your bag of lies.

    You are a religious fanatical nutbag that is anti-gay, anti-semitic and probably anti-black, too.

    Sir, you have no tolerance for others. You are a radical bigot.

  • mnguy

    @RugbyGuy

    I don’t think it’s a good idea for corporations to influence elections from ANY political point of view right or left. The Supremes got it wrong, companies are not “people”.

    Taxes are the price of participation in civil society. Companies should stop whining about paying taxes and relocate elsewhere. Problem is that all that taxpayer supported infrastructure including educated citizen/workers/consumers enables companies to prosper. It’s a circular argument and you need to look no further than the rural south to witness the low tax = low service economic outcomes.

    Target Best Buy and other big companies simply couldn’t exist in places like Mississippi because there would be no qualified workforce and precious few customers in the desirable demographic.

    Lastly the idea that companies need to assist victims of discrimination is invidious. Companies would do better to support public policy and candidates that reduce discrimination, advocate for just treatment of minorities, and remove roadblocks to full legal equality for GLBT persons. Some corporations have enlightened benefit policies including Target which makes it all the more appalling when we find out they give big money to clowns like Tom Emmer who openly disparage members of these groups.

    Stand on the side of love. I won’t hurt a bit.

  • Natalia Halvin

    Purely selfish financial interests lead to evil consequences. We cannot overlook the millions of people that voted for the Nazi party because they promised better economic conditions at the same time that they espoused their racial hatred. Overlooking “social issues” has disastrous consequences.

    I’m not saying that Tom Emmer is a Nazi. I am stating that Mr. Steinhafer’s explanation is ethically weak, and the Supreme Court got it wrong – Mnguy expressed it quite well.

    Mr. Steinhafer – you’re way off target. And I’m off to shop at the independents. By the way, I’ve added up all the shopping I did at Target last year – it exceeds 15,000.

  • Jeff Price

    The explaination is nothing but an excuse. Target’s CEO and his wife are racist, sexist people. The fact that they can con people into thinking they are supporting GBLT people, and then pump money into an election supporting a person who has publically preached against GBLT people is sad. It simply shows that Stienhafer thinks his customers are stupid. I’m so stupid I will take my business to JC Penney, Sears and Cosco. NOT Best BUY., Target has worked very hard to position their brand as hip and upscale. and a lousy $150,000 undoes it all. If I was a shareholder I’d get this idoit out of here.

  • stevelarson

    I will be suspending my shopping at Target until they offer some kind of remedy. I do not believe that the CEO should be spending corporate funds for the benefit of either political party. Just because the US Supreme Court overturned Congress and permitted unrestricted union and corporate political spending does mean that a corporation must or should spend politically.

    With regard to spending by political parties, if we compare the eight years of the Clinton presidency with the eight years of the Bush presidency, there is no contest. Bush outspent Clinton. Furthermore, Clinton actually reduced the national debt his last year, while Bush increased our debt dramatically. Neither party has a monopoly on fiscal responsibility nor on the ability to achieve economic growth. We had excellent growth during the Clinton years and we began the worst recession in modern times during the Bush years despite massive tax cuts that ballooned our deficits.

  • Suzanne

    I’d like to see some of this “history” of what they’ve donated to the other side of the isle?

  • Kathy

    Today I made my last trip to Target until they renounce their support of Emmer–I am so disappointed in the Target corporation!!

  • Rev. Ron

    to youpeoplearedelusional and RugbyGuy:

    You asked for examples of the GOP spending more than the Demos. They are there for your inspection.

    Fact Check exposed Treasury Sec. Timothy Geithner’s exaggeration on “Meet the Press” on July 25 about Obama’s spending and went back to past Presidents in a graph on their website. The graph only goes back to the ’80’s but the fact is the biggest spender (adjusted for inflation since WWII which of course cost plenty).

    And the winner is:

    RONALD REAGAN,

  • David

    The CEO’s flimsy spin control doesn’t convince me one bit. I quit shopping at Target as of the day I heard this news. I’ll go back when they withdraw their money, apologize and give an equal amount to an LGBT organization. The donation was a slap in the face and an insult to human dignity.

  • I had planned to shop at Target this weekend. I can’t now. Being able to face myself in the mirror is too important to me.

  • aron

    Steinhafel is contradicting himself. You can’t logically say that Target does not have a “political or social agenda” and then praise Target’s commitment to diversity at the same time, never mind its other “corporate responsibility” acts that it advocates for. That’s a social agenda. And a political one too.

  • Alan

    An earlier post noted, “The donation was a slap in the face and an insult to human dignity.” I’d add that Steinhafel’s letter to Target employees was an insult to the intelligence of anyone reading it. He stuck his foot in his mouth with the donation; with that letter he only changed feet. What ever happened to the simple apology?

  • George

    Is Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel is naive about politics in 2010? I don’t think so! There is no middle ground with the Republican Tea Party. They mock any kind of dissent or compromise with the label RINO

    You just can’t support one part of the Emmer (or Bachmann) agenda without also supporting the whole toxic package. Steinhafel’s words are Baloney.

  • Brendan

    First, the people who are ranting about big government or turning this into a right/left thing are just avoiding the issue. They shouldn’t support this candidate because his views and associations are reprehensible (he has voiced support for a Christian rock band that has praised the execution of gays in muslim countries). But when you can’t make an argument, I guess all you can do is change the subject. Also, to the guy who said Target is pandering to 5% – that’s not true. I am straight and know a ton of straight people who find find this totally offensive. Just as I (and I hope you) support civil rights for African Americans, I support the rights of gay Americans. This is a national issue. Also, I hope no one would support a candidate who thinks lynching Black Americans is OK. Yet you think it’s OK to support Emmer, who thinks its’ acceptable to support a group that praises the execution of gay people? I challenge anyone who supports Emmer or Target’s decision to support him to explain if you feel this is acceptable and if not, how you feel you can support Emmer. I have a feeling I’ll hear crickets, instead.

  • JRZGRL1

    Great thread. I am impressed that Minnesotans, who are most likely more knowledgeable of the agendas of both MN Forward & Emmer, are as upset, if not more so, than I am about Target’s contribution. I have lived (survived) in SC, an extraordinarily conservative and also hypocritical state (does the name Mark Sanford ring a bell) for the past 23 years but as my user name might suggest I am from somewhere else (a mostly Democratic state which admittedly has its own share of craziness). Having said all that, I can say unequivocally that I feel stabbed in the back by Target. I was thrilled when Target established itself as a more thoughtful, socially progressive alternative to Walmart. I have shopped there very often over the past 10 years and have felt welcome & valued. That ended 2 days ago when I learned of this debacle. MN Forward and Emmer are not people that I want to support with my money. And lets not even discuss “You Can Run but You Can’t Hide”. For the record, it did not occur to me that the state of Minnesota as a whole is not gay-friendly. I know there are pockets of radical conservatism a la Bachmann but those pockets exist in all states, even my home state, the great Garden State. Bad bad move, Steinhafel. You’ve lost my business.

  • Scott D.

    I will not be patronized by this idiot Steinhafel. Both he and his wife have maximized their contribution to Emmer with the blatant attempt to spread hatred and bigotry against the gay community.

    The only thing American Corporations understand is loss of revenue. The gay community in Minnesota and across the entire country for that matter, need to BOYCOTT Target, and start doing it NOW!

    As of today, Aug. 1, 2010 I will not set foot in another Target store until they publicly apoologize to the gay community and cease and desist!

  • DRS

    Republican=Racist…why is this a suprise to anyone?!

  • jahlen

    Mr. Steinhafel:

    Your claim to support gay/lesbian issues is seriously contradicted by your support of a candidate who would curtail any gay/lesbian rights.

    I’ll take my business elsewhere.

    J

  • GFluke

    How much money does Target have to donate to GLBT groups to even begin to counter the harm that will be done by this republican bigot?

    To claim that Target doesn’t have a political or social agenda in its political contributions is laughable. Any financial support of a politician is done to further political and social agendas.

  • Bruce Tominello

    As a 27 year employee of Target Corporation I have known Gregg Steinhafel since his first day at Target. To call him and his wife racist is inexcusable. You don’t even know him and you know that about him. And you wonder why left wing radicals are held in such low regard? I am proud of Target’s record with the GLBT community nationwide. When I started there in 1976 as an openly gay man it was not as well accepted as it is there today and I’d like to think that my example led the way for the full acceptance that GLBT employees have there today. Target is an awesome company and a great place to work. If they feel that certain contributions will further their business objectives then I agree with them. Stop being single issue people and focus on things that matter such as our double-talking President who is speaking out of both sides of his mouth today regarding the judge’s decision in California that tossed out Proposition 8. If you voted for Obama then spend your time holding his feet to the fire for riding the fence on the Gay Marriage issue and let Target run its business and be profitable so they can hire more of our community and give more to our community. Frankly, get a life and if you don’t have one…get a job.

  • NONYA

    TO THE SHAREHOLDERS: want to see you stocks plument?-keep this bigot on as CEO.

    How could this man state how diverse TARGET is when he contributes to an organization that seeks to destroy diversity.

    Just becasue the other groups contributed to MN doesnt make any business sense. How could you (in this economy) risk loosing a loyal customer base? Now you have rolled the dice and came up a looser.

    WONT SHOP AT TARGET til the CEO is fired and an equal amout is contriubte to the GLBT.

    signed a former loyal and now pissed off TAGERT SHOPPER!