Is there a penalty when a popular business chooses sides in a political debate?
Maybe. But, apparently not a big one.
Target is under some criticism today for being one of the businesses bankrolling the latest TV ad supporting Republican Tom Emmer’s bid to be governor of Minnesota. Target’s top executives have been big contributors to the Republican Party for years, but last winter’s Supreme Court ruling eliminating campaign finance limits for corporations has brought businesses out of the closet. Still, it’s hardly a secret that the department store is the political version of a “red state.”
Target isn’t the first big-name to go all Republican in Minnesota. TCF Bank, for example, has been run for some time by Bill Cooper, the long-time godfather of the GOP in Minnesota. It’s also one of the few banks that’s regularly made a profit.
Target’s main competitor — WalMart — reportedly worked hard behind the scenes in 2008 to torpedo a Barack Obama candidacy.
There have been attempts to push back against the political desires of corporations. A year ago at this time, the Whole Foods Warehouse CEO, John Mackey, offended much of his organic customer base when he wrote an op-ed piece for the Wall Street Journal criticizing the Obama administration’s health care initiative.
Some customers vowed to boycott the chain. How’d that work out? Analysts predict a 55% growth in earnings for the company when they’re released next month.
In California, proponents of same-sex marriage vowed to boycott businesses that contributed to the successful campaign to strip homosexuals of that right. It appears to have had very little effect.
“There are a lot of people who take politics very seriously and they take their views on issues very seriously, and they do not want to see their money going directly to fund somebody who is directly antagonistic to their belief system,” Rep. Ryan Winkler told MPR’s Tom Scheck about Target’s campaign involvement.
No doubt that’s true. But history says most people don’t care. As the Whole Foods saga proved: Sometimes, people just want their tofu.