Off Target? In the World of Politics, Be Careful Who You Back

Earlier this year, when the U.S. Supreme Court eased the rules on corporate giving to political campaigns, it was deemed a victory for the business community. However, Target recently discovered that this can be quite polarizing. When the company donated to a group supporting a Minnesota gubernatorial candidate for his approach toward economic growth and job creation, it soon received a backlash from employees for his views on social issues. Minnesota Public Radio reports:

The CEO of Minneapolis based Target Corporation is apologizing for a donation the company made to a political group supporting Republican Tom Emmer’s bid for governor.

The contribution to MN Forward prompted a backlash from Democrats and gay rights groups who called for boycotts of the company’s stores. At least one gay rights organization is praising the apology but is waiting to see whether it follows up with its renewed emphasis on supporting gay rights causes.

In a letter to Target employees, CEO Gregg Steinhafel wrote that the purpose of the $150,000 donation to MN Forward was to support economic growth and job creation, but he wrote that the contribution affected many employees in ways he did not anticipate and quote "for that I am deeply sorry."

Target spokeswoman Lena Michaud said the company will also do a strategic review of political donations and plans to lead a discussion on improving gay rights in the workplace.

"Our commitment right now is in letting people know that we’ve heard their feedback and we’re really sorry that we’ve let them down," Michaud said. "We want to continue doing the many things that Target has done as a company to foster our inclusive corporate culture and then look at ways of doing things better in the future."

The company’s tone has changed dramatically since it became public in July that the company contributed to MN Forward. At the time of the donation, Target officials said the company gave to both Democrats and Republicans and the contribution was aimed at fostering a better business climate in Minnesota. But the donation to Minnesota Forward and the group’s subsequent TV ad in support of Tom Emmer ignited a backlash that spread nationwide.

Michaud wouldn’t say if the boycott affected the company’s sales and also wouldn’t say whether Target would stop making political donations to MN Forward or other groups.

That’s what Monica Meyer, executive director of the gay rights group OutFront Minnesota, said she’ll be watching for. Meyer said she’s pleased Target apologized for the contribution, but she wants to make sure the company follows up on its promise to be committed to gay rights.

Stimulus Money Went Where? for What?

When federal government spending is involved, there is almost certain to be some questionable uses. According to a report from senators John McCain and Tom Coburn, there are more than a few such examples in the $862 billion stimulus plan.

The following and more are included in their report:

  • Nearly $2 million to photograph ants
  • More than $550,000 to replace windows in a closed visitors center
  • Replacing a 5-year-old sidewalk with a new sidewalk that leads to a ditch

You get the idea. Sure, there is some politics involved here. But the examples of misappropriated or mismanaged funds do speak loudly. Remember, it’s all about jobs — or at least it is supposed to be.

Here’s the report, Summertime Blues (for taxpayers).