Targeting politics

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.

  • http://portofdangerbay.com/ Jack Boardman

    Let me see…Boycott Target? Boycotting SCOTUS would be about as effective.

  • Al

    I’m not sure if it will cause me to stop shopping at Target entirely, but it may cause me to rethink some purchases. It will certainly motivate me to contact Target to express my disgust.

  • bsimon

    It won’t affect my decision to shop at Target because I already avoid Target.

    I would like to think that explicit corporate involvement in political campaigns would prompt a discussion among the electorate of whether money should equal speech & whether corporations should enjoy the same political speech rights as individuals. But I won’t hold my breath.

  • Jim Hartmann

    I will target other stores with my shopping dollars. Also unsubscribed from their emails today. See ya!

  • BJ

    Good luck finding a replacement for your purchases at target. Walmart does much the same. I don’t know of any major corp that doesn’t have a PAC or now wouldn’t spend dollars on campaigns. The politcal choices we make effect them greatly, I don’t blame them. I can hurt them more by being an informed voter and trying to inform more voters.

    I can’t find the study but something like only 20% know more than 2 things about a candidate. They other 80% think they know one of the things on this list:

  • Jim Hartmann

    Wouldn’t it be much cheaper for Target to display big “Emmer for Governor” signs at the front of the stores? Hmmm, I wonder why they didn’t think of that?

  • http://theraabereview.com Diana Raabe

    Remember when Target was owned by Dayton-Hudson?

    I think George Draper Dayton would be extremely disappointed to see the direction his former company is taking with their virtual endorsement of teapartier Tom Emmer.

    Dayton was a community-oriented businessman who believed in “success by contribution instead of success by acquisition.” If it weren’t for the legacy of his business practices – including the philosophy of optimizing profits, not maximizing profits – and the recognition that business have a debt to stakeholders (shareholders, customers, employees, and community), not just shareholders (who knowingly take a risk when they purchase stock) – we would not have the Nicollet Mall, the wonderful Minneapolis skyway system, the metrodome and many other important aspects of our community – including plenty of profit.

    The Dayton legacy is one of success in business and in the community. Target has done some good things for the community that should not be overlooked. However, this recent alignment with an extremist like Tom Emmer has to make you wonder if they are turning a corner. Imagine a tea party governance that not only allows Target to discriminate against gays, but forces them to. Ministries like “You Can Run But You Can’t Hide” who advocate the execution of homosexuals are tied to the tea party – and now Tom Emmer – and now Target.

    I miss Dayton’s.