Target CEO apologizes for donation to MN Forward

Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel today apologized to Target employees for donating funds to a group that is backing Republican Tom Emmer’s bid for governor. In the letter, Steinhafel wrote that the company will create a review of their political donations and will also bring together a group of companies to discuss ways to improve GLBT relations.

Target has been heavily criticized for donating to MN Forward, an independent expenditure group that is backing Emmer’s campaign for governor. Democrats and gay rights groups called for a boycott of the group.

Here’s the full letter:

Civic Activity

A Message From Gregg Steinhafel, Chairman, President and CEO


Dear Target Leaders,

I have heard from many of you, and our team members, over the past week regarding Target’s contribution to MN Forward, and I appreciate your engagement and candor, both of which clearly demonstrate your loyalty and passion for our company.

In situations like this, it is often difficult to find the right words, but I would like to respond with the same honesty you have shown me.

The intent of our political contribution to MN Forward was to support economic growth and job creation. While I firmly believe that a business climate conducive to growth is critical to our future, I realize our decision affected many of you in a way I did not anticipate, and for that I am genuinely sorry.

We remain fully committed to fostering an environment that supports and respects the rights and beliefs of all individuals. The diversity of our team is an important aspect of our unique culture and our success as a company, and we did not mean to disappoint you, our team or our valued guests.

Going forward, we will soon begin a strategic review and analysis of our decision-making process for financial contributions in the public policy arena. And later this fall, Target will take a leadership role in bringing together a group of companies and partner organizations for a dialogue focused on diversity and inclusion in the workplace, including GLBT issues.

Thank you for sharing your input and for your continued commitment to making Target an even stronger company.


Gregg Steinhafel

Chairman, President and CEO

  • Its official, I made my last trip to Target last Sunday.

    If the head of Target is going to abandon supporting sound fiscal political issues and instead focus on supporting liberal social policies with liberal candidates who will do great fiscal harm to the company….

    Well, it won’t take long for Target to be tight nit group of people who used to have jobs.

    Former Target shopper,

    Andy A

  • Patrick from Anoka

    God bless you, Andy A

    I still have hope Target will support pro-business candidates, but this letter disheartens me.

    Consider me with one foot out of the door of Target.

  • Victor

    Not surprised to see conservatives who can’t spell (it’s “knit” not “nit”) posting the first response to this. As it is, I’m sure the nice people at Walmart will accept your patronage – that is, after they’ve driven out local businesses producing local jobs.

  • Douglas Smith

    This should be a lesson to any business that considers making political donations – Don’t! You will alienate customers, because as divided as this country is, you can’t win. Doesn’t matter which way you lean, you’ll lose.

  • Paterfamilias

    I don’t believe it’s in Target’s best interests to get involved with partisan politics of ANY kind for ANY reason — simply because it’s bound to offend people on one side or the other, and that’s simply bad for business.

    It’s one thing to support non-partisan local community affairs, and another to start sending your customers’ cash to candidates with whose politics they may disagree. Retailing is highly competitive and consumers can shop in lots of stores besides Target, so why risk driving them away?

  • Kris

    Patrick and Andy A,

    I think you read a different letter than the one posted. It doesn’t say anything about supporting liberal social policies at the exclusion of sound business policies.

    I hope Target has learned a valuable lesson about attempting to participate in the political process.

  • dan

    Did anybody read the letter? He didn’t apologize for the contribution, he is sorry people are offended by it. Two very different things if you know how to read spin.

    Above letter is simply. “We still think it was the right thing, but we are sorry some people were offended. Here are some things to make you feel better about us.”

  • Norm

    Notice that nowhere in the letter does it say that Target is asking for the $150k back. That makes this letter meaningless, and until they do I have spent my last dollars there. Really though, the best way to send a message is not to stop shopping there, but for anyone who disagrees with the contribution to divest any and all stock they own in the corporation. If enough people do that to the point where the share price starts to plummet, then the bigwigs will finally sit up and take notice.

  • Chris_

    I mean, he says that MN Forward wants growth — but I look at MN and its “most Fortune 500 companies per capita” and I look at Emmer and his “I want MN to be more like Arkansas” and I just don’t get it.

    It’s almost as if “growth” is just an excuse for enriching wealthy people’s pocketbooks (ie George W.’s tax cuts) rather than spurring, you know, actual growth?

  • This seems a little crazy to me since Target was founded by the Daytons and Mark Dayton left the corp to run for political office on the DFL ticket.

    It just seems to go completely against their own corporate culture.

  • Annie G.

    Gypsy, Mark Dayton never worked for the corporation. When he ran for the U.S. Senate for the first time (in 1982) the big wigs at the corporation (then called Dayton-Hudson; now called Target) supported his Republican opponent, Dave Durenburger. Supporting Republicans is nothing new. The difference is that this particular Republican, Tom Emmer, is far outside the mainstream on a wide range of issues, including gay rights. That’s what is new for Target, and why people are so upset.

  • chris m

    I certainly agree that this apology was necessary and that Target (hopefully) has learned from their mistake. Let me be clear: shame on you Target for not asking for your money back in addition to the apology.

    Regardless of the CEO’s political leanings and legality of the donation, the company really should have just stayed out of it.

    Seriously people, do you really think this is worse than all of the horrible things that other corporations, such as Walmart, do? Walmart is (arguably) much worse.

    I am still never setting foot inside a Walmart instead of a Target. This is really just a drop in the bucket in the grand scheme of things.

    Additionally, I think it’s odd that MPR has already amended their article announcing Target’s apology, withdrawing this statement from their final paragraph:

    “According to public campaign reports, other contributors to MN Forward include Red Wing Shoe Company Inc., Best Buy Co., Pentair Inc., Hubbard Broadcasting Inc., Davisco Foods International Inc. and Polaris Industries Inc.”

    Why?? Were Best Buy et al. worried about their own personal blow-back??!

    While diplomatic on MPR’s part to not get involved, the adage of ‘withholding information is akin to lying’ comes to mind…

  • Pat P.

    To Andy A and others who feel if Target avoids supporting candidates who discriminate it is not supporting business, I think you’re missing the point of Target’s apology.

    They are saying they will find a way to contribute to pro-business candidates who also oppose discriminating against minorities.

    Just because a candidate is pro-business doesn’t necessarily mean they are also bigoted. Target indicates they will focus on those candidates who support business and support human rights.

    If you want pro-business candidates, you shouldn’t have to settle for pro-business candidates who also discriminate.

    And in the end, discrimination toward your employees and customers is not good for business, as the Target CEO seems to acknowledge in his letter.

    I applaud Target for saying they will support those candidates who are good for business and promote human rights and diginity.

    Now let’s see if they walk the walk.

  • jane clover

    The “apology” letter is framed so that it was mainly GLTB Target was apologizing to. That simply isn’t enough. It was NOT just GLTB community members that were greatly disappointed with Target. Others were as well. I can shop somewhere else besides Target. Actions speak louder than words and we’ll be watching Target closely in the future. Will they donate to the Democratic National Convention like they did the Republican one?

  • Cbh

    Take a serious look at Tom Horner, a governor for the middle. Easily the most qualified man in the race…from any party. Let us unite Minnesota and fix what years of bickering has destroyed!

  • JS

    It was a NON-apology.

    Read the statement carefully; Steinhafel regrets the way the contribution made people feel. He never says he regrets making the decision to give money to support Emmer’s campaign. Quite the contrary. Instead he indicates that Target will continue to try to buy elections. They’ll just do it more carefully next time.

  • Vaughn Nickel

    I’m sorry that Target decided to enter politics, which in todays climate means you are either Blue or Red. I happen to be a Blue shopper, Target has shown itself to be Red. As Rambo said, “They drew first blood”. Wal-Mart is even worse though, hello Kohls 🙂

  • Jeffrey Tribble

    This “apology” is a joke, because they didn’t ask for the money back!!!

    It obviously was issued because their stock took a hit and they have been threatened by a national boycott by GLBT groups and Don’t forget this is the same CEO that was a host ($10,000) donation to the recent Bachmann/Palin fundraiser.

    If Target wants to alienate half of their customers I am sure there are many other businesses that will welcome them.

  • Jeff

    That’s not an apology for the donation. That’s an apology that the donation generated blow-back. It’s like saying something racist, then saying “I’m sorry if anyone was offended.”

  • Mike

    Target obviously still thinks they did nothing wrong. This was no apology. And they openly admit to their intention to “buy” elected officials. It is hard to say what is worse, really. They just keep sending the message that profits are more important than people. We’ll never be free of this kind of crap until we have completely publicly-funded elections and clean up the corporate corruption in politics.

  • pdq

    “Its official, I made my last trip to Target last Sunday.”

    That’s kind of funny. I actually had started my own little quiet boycott of Target as soon as I heard about the Emmer (and Bachmann….ech!) support. I decided I could shop somewhere else, at least til November.

    Now, with the apology, I can go back! Woohoo!

  • David

    Target used to be my favorite store. Even so they aren’t that busy in my area.

  • over 65

    So long Target. I cannot support business that approves of the political policies of these individuals.

    Additionally, your apology rings false and meaningless. I am so tired of false apology.

  • Until Targets withdraws their money from right-wing hate groups they’ll not get another dime of my money either. Its disgusting that they would stab in the backs, people who have helped to make them the success they have been. Hate never wins in the end. The Republican party-try as they might, are not really about economics and spending so much as they are about spreading ignorance and hate. They depend on lesser educated, easily led people, emotionally immature, and religious zealots, racists, and homophobic bigots and ecnomically and socially retarded uninformed to win elections for them.

    Case in point sift thru the vile drivel foamed from right wingers on this thread and you’ll see exactly what I mean. As a parent of a gay daughter and grandchild my anger can outmatch any on the right. How dare they attempt to pervert our Consitution to deny the same rights to all citizens in our Country. Their appreciation for our Constituion and country is limited via their myopic narrow-minded vision of a world that only exists in backwards third world nations, where I wish they’d go. They only good thing about our illadvised decision allowing corporations to buy our elections instead of people deciding them is that people will see exactly where right wing-extremist money comes from, and not doing business with these places is the best way to cast our ballots and show right wing bigots that they’re not going to run the whole show! Go get em Move On! and Best Buy and any other supporters of the GOP Party of Hate!

  • Patty

    I will never shop at Target again does he think apology to gays make it right what about the rest of the country who don’t support gays we shop there to but no more I will shop at walmart . See you Gregg Steinhafel,

  • Heidi

    Maybe that big red bullseye should have been a clue. . .Sorry Target you’ve lost me until you donate equal amounts to the Dems and then stop contributing to political parties all together. You’ve joined the ranks of Wal-Mart.

  • Jay Hubbell

    I stopped shopping at Target because of its support for the anti-gay candidate. I also have stopped using my Target VISA card.

    I will stop my boycott when Target puts its money where its mouth is and gives at least an equal amount to the pro-equal protection of the law candidate.

    Talk is cheap. Show me the money and then we will talk.

  • Heather

    Really??? all this uproar over a campaign contribution? I don’t agree with anyone discriminating (or worse) anyone else, but to boycott a company over who they donated money to is ludicrous. Did you research every store chain in America before you shopped there? If they had supported a liberal candidate and conservatives complained, you would all be on here calling them stupid and saying that the company had the right to support anyone they wanted to. I do think that major corporations (in this age of “internet knows all”) should probably just stay out of politics. But what about your local store? What if the owner there is on the opposite side of the fence from you? will you boycott them too? What is only the local manager of a Target is a bigot? do you just boycott that location, or do you blame the whole corporation because they hired the guy? You people need to grow up and realize that not everyone agrees with your point of view. get over it.

  • Former Target Customer

    Apologies and words will not repair the damage of Target’s actions. They can hide behind the statement that they were focused on job creation to try and excuse supporting a hateful bigot. Wow Gregg, thanks for the minimum wage job with no future, go ahead and discriminate. I will gladly pay more to support local small businesses from being undercut by walmart and target and closing. What about their jobs? Their bargains come at too high a price. I will fight target’s plans to open 2 new stores in my area and support boycotts of any celebrity that lend their name to their products. We are tired of being treated like 2nd class citizens by politicians and corporations like them.