Target kept on giving to anti-gay politicians after Emmer fiasco
The dust has settled in the wake of the 2010 elections, and the hot white glare on Target's controversial support for anti-gay Republican Tom Emmer's gubernatorial campaign has faded.
But FEC records show that the Target political action committee kept up its donations to anti-gay candidates after that embarrassing episode, including in Minnesota.
The money kept flowing even after CEO Gregg Steinhafel offered a public mea culpa on Aug. 5 for offending employees and customers upset by the company's apparent two-faced posture when it comes to GLBT issues.
In case you missed our report in August, Here's part of what Steinhafel said:
The intent of our political contribution to MN Forward [the group supporting Emmer] 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.
And he must have smiled when a Dec. 4 Star Tribune story gave him room to say this:
The worst one could say about this incident is that Steinhafel may have been naive. But he admitted his mistake and reaffirmed the company's long-standing support for gay rights. As he told me, "Target has the most gay-friendly policies in this state."
But post-apology, the Target PAC kept donating to anti-gay congressional candidates across the country including Reps. Spencer Bachus of Alabama, David Camp of Michigan, Dave Reichert of Washington and David Dreier of California. And also to Sen. Michael Crapo of Idaho and Sen.-elect Rob Portman of Ohio.
After news about its donations started making headlines again after a report in The Awl, the company released a statement saying that it "works with policy makers on both sides of the aisle."
The biggest beneficiary of the company's largesse was Republican Rep. John Kline's campaign in the 2nd congressional district. He collected $5,000 from the Target PAC after the Steinhafel mea culpa. The Target PAC didn't donate to his challenger, Shelly Madore.
Kline has voted against prohibiting job discrimination based on sexual orientation, and in favor of a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. He signed on to televangelist Pat Robertson's failed lawsuit targeting gay marriage in the District of Columbia; Robertson's Christian Coalition gives Kline a 92 percent favorability rating. The Human Rights Campaign has rated him a zero in terms of support for GLBT issues.
Target's PAC also donated $1,500 to GOP Rep. Erik Paulsen on Sept. 29 -- after the apology -- as well as in previous quarters. Paulsen is a consistent opponent of gay marriage. He voted against repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," and against workplace anti-discrimination laws based on sexual orientation. He's been embraced by James Dobson's organization, Focus on the Family, for trying to get a gay marriage ban passed in Minnesota during his time in the Legislature. The Human Rights Campaign also rated him a zero. No Target PAC money went to his Democratic challenger, Maureen Hackett.
In the 6th district, Target PAC donated to anti-gay marriage stalwart Michele Bachmann before the August primaries, but not after. However, the The Awl reports the PAC also donated to independent groups that in turn donated Bachmann's campaign. Bachmann's rival, Tarryl Clark, received no donations.
The Target PAC did support two friends of GLBT causes this year.
- CD 5: Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison, a gay marriage supporter, took in a $1,500 donation from the Target PAC on Sept. 30. His opponent, Republican Joel Demos, didn't receive Target PAC money.
- In CD 4, $1,000 went to Democratic Rep. Betty McCollum on June 21 -- before the apology. The Target PAC did not donate to her Republican challenger, Theresa Collete.
This year, the FEC shows that no Target PAC money made its way into the these races:
- CD 1: Democratic Rep. Tim Walz vs Republican Randy Demmer
- CD 7: Democratic Rep. Collin Peterson vs Republican Vidar Byberg
- CD 8: Democratic Rep. Jim Oberstar vs Republican Chip Cravaack
Neither of Minnesota's two U.S. Senators, Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, were up for re-election this year. However, the Target PAC donated $1,000 to Klobuchar this year.
Supposedly GLBT-friendly Target says it's playing fair. But to have its CEO apologize for the company's political donations, and to then keep supporting politicians opposed to GLBT rights, is a cold calculation.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss City Pages' biggest stories.