Tom Emmer brought to you by KSTP, Target and Polaris [UPDATED]

Buyer beware: Target, KSTP's owners and Polaris jump into campaign finance
Buyer beware: Target, KSTP's owners and Polaris jump into campaign finance
Image: cdrummbks

Updated: KSTP admits it let its audience down. Details below.

The short, bland bit of news copy on KSTP's website seems innocuous enough, talking about "an ad by business group MN Forward that backs Tom Emmer and his stance on taxes and government spending." The report also mentions a new ad by Emmer's opponent, Democrat Margaret Anderson Kelliher.

Here's what the report doesn't tell you: KSTP's owners, Hubbard Broadcasting, helped pay for the ad through MN Forward, a Republican pressure group founded by former Pawlenty deputy chief of staff Brian McClung. Hubbard, along with retail giant Target, snowmobile maker Polaris and a food distribution company named Davisco, put up $450,000 in seed money for MN Forward:

  • Target Corp: $100,000 cash and $50,000 in-kind contributions
  • Davisco Foods: $100,000 cash
  • Hubbard Broadcasting: $100,000 cash
  • Polaris: $100,000 cash

Nothing sneaky about the contributions or the ad, other than KSTP maybe skipping out on a little truth in advertising.

Updated: KSTP-TV News Director Lindsay Radford tells BrauBlog her newsroom "should have disclosed" owner Hubbard Broadcasting Inc.'s ties in stories about MnForward's pro-Tom Emmer ads.

The cash spigot is the result of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in its infinite wisdom recently in Citizens United that we Americans need more corporate and union cash flooding our elections and public policy making. MN Forward simply operates as a funnel through which corporate donors can, more directly than ever before, put their money where their mouth is; they can't actually collaborate with a political campaign. (Download MN Forward's Minnesota Campaign Finance Board statement here.)

The question now becomes one of whether this kind of close-quarters political backing will backfire on corporations that spend bazillions of dollars carefully cultivating brands with mass appeal. Hubbard's political proclivities are well known. But, as DFL state Rep. Ryan Winkler recently asked on Twitter: Will someone supporting the minimum wage, abortion rights and civil rights for gays decide they'd rather shop somewhere besides Target because it's so publicly backing a right winger?

WCCO's Esme Murphy offered one (non-scientific) response:

Tom Emmer brought to you by KSTP, Target and Polaris [UPDATED]

The question is hardly confined to right field. As the campaign for governor heats up, we'll see if corporate donors kick in for Democrats Kelliher, Mark Dayton and Matt Entenza, or for IPer Tom Horner through groups such as Win Minnesota and its 2010 Fund. Right now for example, Politics In Minnesota reports, that group's donors are decidedly non-corporate:

Win MN had taken in $1,173,500 from just 12 donor sources. Alida Messinger, a Rockefeller heir and the ex-wife of Mark Dayton, gave $500,000; Mary Lee Dayton and the Democratic Governors Association kicked in $250,000 each.) Win MN gave a total of $63,750 to two other groups -- $50,00 to its own 2010 Fund, and the rest to the Alliance for a Better Minnesota Action Fund. Win MN PAC finished the period with $1,159,750 in its coffers.

It's just smart business, nothing personal, Target spokeswoman Lena Michaud told MPR:

"Target does not give funds based on party, but on which candidates and causes "directly effect the company's retail agenda."

That might give pause to the folks at Pride Fest, which listed Target as a "Silver" sponsor this year. But it probably doesn't surprise anyone at Planned Parenthood.

Here's the Emmer ad:

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