Target donations favored ban on gay marriage

TARGET-OPEN-SECRETS.jpg Retailer Target caught flak for supporting Minnesota gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer, who has a strong record on antigay activism. Though Target's CEO has apologized, more has now emerged, including donations from colleagues overwhelmingly in support of California's anti-gay-marriage Prop 8. Abe Sauer points out that executives there leave a long and consistent paper trail of donations to right wing candidates: the lesson learned is not that Target has "changed," but that it was ever thus. [Star Tribune, Huffpo & The Awl]


  1. And as a long time bull terrier fan who has owned four of them, I would like to point out that they will gleefully hump members of their own sex. So they are not at all an appropriate mascot for a homophobic company.

    Someone needs to start a BULL TERRIERS AGAINST TARGET movement.

  2. How do Boingboingers feel about the fact that these types of contributions are public? Do you feel all contributions should be public, including your contributions? Or do you think a certain amount of privacy protects against abuse by the majority? Do you think different rules should apply for rich people vs regular people (i.e. like now, large donations are recorded, smaller ones are not)?

    I realize these questions have nothing to do with gay marriage (which I support) or this particular news item (I’m glad to know). I do think it is relevant though — especially because there may be a conflict between our desire and support of privacy and our desire for transparency.

    1. Publicly traded corporations have a fiduciary and legal responsibility to disclose all expenditures, including those to political candidates and/or causes. The screen-shot above looks suspiciously like part of an SEC filing.

      1. WRONG!!

        Corporations do not have a legal responsibility to disclose all of their expenditures. They do not even have a responsibility to disclose all political expenditures — just those made by their PACs and their lobbying expenses.

        However, at risk of sounding like a ridiculous reformist shill, this can change. H.R. 4790, which just got out of committee in the House, would require a majority shareholder vote to approve independent political expenditures supporting/opposing federal candidates (the type legalized under Citizens United, a deluge of which we’re just now starting to see). If you want disclosure of these corrupting expenditures, call your Congresscritters and tell them to support HR 4790!

    2. I think that these types of contributions should be public, as they represent interests that may influence political decisionmaking. It can’t be private speech because a political donation has inherent public consequences.

      This leaves issues such as how to protect the right of donors not to be discriminated against in their personal lives for their beliefs. Allowing the flow of money in politics to lurk under the privacy penumbra is a particularly fraught way to go about this, IMO.

      1. But on the other hand, the US has a history of protecting anonymous political speech. If money (that is, campaign contributions) is speech, then there’s an argument that the anonymity rule should apply.
        But I’m not sure campaign contributions ought to be classified as speech. It’s a complicated issue, to be sure, but the consequences of money = speech seem to me to be bad for most voters and good only for rich ones (and now corporations as well).

      2. So if any of the people Joe McCarthy was trying to out as Communists back in the ’60s had actually donated money to the Communist party, they should have had no expectation of privacy then, right?

        1. Anyone still being red-baited by Joseph McCarthy in the 60’s had bigger problems than having to disclose their contributions to political groups.

          Especially since Senator Joseph McCarthy died in 1957.

          that is the McCarthy you were talking about, right?

          the one who got dozens of Known Homosexuals fired from their government jobs, for being security threats?

          unless you’re talking about Eugene McCarthy… but i admit, that’d be kinda ridiculous.

          1. Maybe he was talking about Charlie McCarthy. I think Edgar Bergen was still making the rounds with him in the 60’s. I don’t recall their political views, though.

    3. i am shocked, shocked to find that the finances of a political action committee may be a matter of public record.

      if i yell, very loudly and influentially, in the middle of the public forum, do i have a reasonable expectation of privacy?

      which is to say that i don’t think money gets to be protected as speech, while also vanishing the exercise of that speech by being protected as privacy, all while that money is getting spent on public relations campaigns and donations to civil servants.

      or maybe it does get to do that, and the FBI will have to apologize for its many unseemly intrusions of privacy. starting with all those private conversations between organized crime and the law enforcement personnel they were bribing.

      1. ALL corporate donations should be public.

        What if it is an untraded corporation, held exclusively by a few family members? Does your attitude change if it is a big company or a small company? What if it isn’t a corporation, but a sole proprietarship or limited liability company (the income being taxed on the owner’s personal income tax)? Should the owners of the pizza shop down the street be forced to disclose their donations?

        I disagree with you. I don’t like how big companies give big dollars and exert an influence that it is very hard for me to match. But I don’t see how you can play favorites in this without just falling into prejudicial thinking. That is, one would end up proposing some entities are not worthy of privacy (big companies, rich people, organizations one disagrees with) while other entiteis ARE worthy of privacy (‘regular people’, mom-and-pa shops, organizations one agrees with). Better to be consistent. You say, oh, big corps would take much greater advantage of private donations than individuals would. But, big corps take much greater advantage of public donations too; they take much bigger advantage of ANY situation. That’s what money does for you. So I’m not sure that’s a strong counterargument.

        Agree with UniAce that sufficienlty large corporations are ‘super entities’. They can’t want or believe things; they can’t be good or evil (anymore than “the city of Chicago” can be good or evil). However, they show behavior that can be interpreted that way, and it is a useful way to talk about them — as long as we remember the limits. Probably saying “Target opposes gay marriage” is a lot like saying “my cat enjoys trying to trip me when I walk up the stairs”. It certainly seems that way, and the effect is the same, but my cat just isn’t capable of that kind of intentionality and emotion.

    4. While I can see that there is a privacy argument to be made for individuals along the lines you stated, corporations are different. I, as a consumer and as an investor, need to know the political actions of my dollars. It would be unfair to me to work and to vote one way, only top have my money work against me. If the argument that spending is speech is to hold sway, then it is unfair to allow my money to speak against me without my knowledge or consent.

      If full disclosure has a chilling effect on corporate donations, so be it. Most shareholders get companies stock through mutual funds. It is arguably impossible to form a consensus for non-business related political action.

    5. Rich vs poor isn’t the issue. Either way, if it is a “personal” contribution, you’re entitled to make a donation. You are also entitled to the flack that comes from doing so. When companies start making contributions, they are using the profits they have gained from ALL consumers, with various political views. They are also holding their employees, to their philosophies, and opinions, each time they put on that company uniform!
      When these large American retailers start making contributions, based on personal opinions, it’s time to rethink the whole shopping venture. I would rather pay $.20 more for toothpaste! I find Target’s actions abusive. I have never seen a store sign that states their political beliefs, therefore offering Americans the choice; to either continue to shop there, and support something they are against, or do not. They freely take anyone’s money, therefore they have the right to remain neutral, and not bite the hands that feed them!

  3. So wait, because some Target employees (and not Target Corp) donated more money to one side than the other (and the totals disclosed here are a pittance given the amount spent overall re: Prop 8), Target Corp is now a monstrous homophobic behemoth which must be shamed publicly?
    I’m pretty sure the only way Target could have stopped its employees from donating to the political causes of their choice would be to vet their political positions as part of the hiring process. Which, you know, is kind of offensive to me.
    (Disclaimer: I’m super stoked that Prop 8 was struck down, even if it’s not yet permanently so.)

    1. The most recent contribution that Target is apologizing for, WAS from Target corp. The reason the executives having contributed to conservative candidates before is significant is because its only been a short while that companies could donate without limit to campaigns, so previously the best way to see Target’s political leanings were, was to look at the Target ’employees’ that ran the damn company.

      1. I see. My mistake, I didn’t read the apology link.
        But I’m still not sure that this proves Target is homophobic. After all, the company’s leadership caught flak on this from within as well as without. I think all it proves is that Target picks its candidates based on their economic positions, which seems like common sense for a major retailer. I’m not ready to boycott them because the guy with the policies most favorable to Target’s bottom line was also the guy with the policies least favorable to the LGBT community.
        Of course, this illustrates the pitfalls that come with corporations’ new freedom to spend as much as they wish on politics. Political neophytes with lots of cash seems a recipe for PR disasters. Expect major corporations to hire political advisors in addition to their teams of lobbyists.

        1. Target picks its candidates based on their economic positions, which seems like common sense for a major retailer.

          Target shouldn’t get to pick candidates, period.

        2. I think all it proves is that Target picks its candidates based on their economic positions, which seems like common sense for a major retailer.

          “” is a single-issue political action group, not a candidate. As for “economic positions,” Target has one of the biggest wedding registries in the nation. Financially the company would be much better off with more weddings taking place, not less.

    1. et tu target, ca veut dire quoi? je ne comprends pas ce que vous voulez dire, mais je voudrais savoir.

  4. Personally, I am completely for gay marriage. Thankfully, I live in the enlightened state of Massachusetts where we don’t use the force of government to suppress people from getting married to whomever they damn well please, regardless of what naughty bit combination they have chosen. I feel nothing but the utmost pity and contempt for anyone who is able to tell a gay couple to their face to fuck off with their desire to marriage and then have cops go enforce their fucked up “morality”. Fuck those people. Seriously, fuck those people. If you are one of those people, fuck you.

    That said, pointing out that a bunch of CEOs vote and donate Republican is hardly a revelation. Further, connecting Target Corp contributions to gay marriage based on the fact that they give money to conservatives is more than a bit iffy. It could be that Target Corp hates gays… or could be a rational effort to vote for people that will drop taxes. As paranoid as I might get, I am going to guess it is probably the later.

    Now, the issue of corporate contributions is a whole different story. Personally, I think that companies that are going to be brutalized by a law or candidate SHOULD be able to spend money to speak about their opposition to the law. In that, I think that a company should be able to launch a direct ad with their name plastered on it declaring why law X will hurt corp Y and thus is bad. I don’t think that they should be able to donate money to campaigns or funnel their money to other organizations. If Target is against law X, they should be allowed to declare their opposition, but they should be forced to do it in a public way and under their own name.

    1. I don’t doubt that they were donating for economic reasons as well.

      But single positions don’t get elected, entire people do. By contributing to the candidate they did, they ARE contributing to a anti-gay candidate.

  5. I like boingboing, the articles here portray the very creative and critical thinking that I would like to aspire too. I’m sure all the readers here do the same. This is the first time I have actually seen the amounts, so kudos for the blog poster Rob Beschizza for doing research on the issue and posting a fact. I seriously doubt that $4,000 spent on support (or even spent on against) Prop 8 would have made a difference as 7 million people in California voted for it.

    I live in MN so I am closely affected by this as Tom Emmer is a Gubernatorial candidate here and Target corporate office is also based in MN. My critical thinking about this agrees with the post above by bja009.

    There is a second little know fact about this whole dust up that surprised me escapes the local and national media. The Democratic candidate (DFL) for Governor is Mark Dayton. Mark Dayton, is from the Dayton family. The Dayton family fortune is from a retail store called Dayton’s that created and owns Target.

    Why has there been no questions or vilification of the Mr Dayton?

    Feigned outrage by the public, politicians, C-level executives is disgusting if it is only based on a short media sound bite. The recent Shirley Sherrod debacle is another example of this.

    When “social injustice” stories appear, it would behove all of us to beware of the message and question the meaning of the statements. This constant jumping to conclusions on both sides of any issue with 1% of the information is very troubling to me.

    Now, before you flame me viciously for this very post asking you to think before you speak. My stand is that I believe in Social Freedoms, live and let live (your marriage is not my or anyone else’s business), and lastly personal and fiscal responsibility.

  6. Interestingly, AZ Prop 102 defined marriage as between one man and one woman… you will see $102 against and $0 for.

  7. They had an expectation not to be persecuted or harassed for their political beliefs, and keeping political donations private is a means to that end. But it’s such an imperfect one that I’d rather see those more fundamental rights upheld than allow this sort of donation to flow in secret to public political ends.

  8. Corporations are super-entities that comprise distributed cognitive systems. I think it might be oversimplifying and even misleading to talk/think of them as having beliefs and attitudes in the same way that individual human cognitive agents do.

  9. Target HQs is in my city of Brooklyn Park (where Jesse Ventura was Mayor -but another time…). There’s more going on here. The original issue that started the boycott was Citizens United and the fact that Target was one of the first companies in the nation to take advantage of it -by supporting a Republican Tea Partier, not unlike Michelle Bachmann (also nearby), for Governor.

    People here started a boycott of Target, Best Buy and some others who gave to MN Forward (a “non partisan” group who has now hastily donated to some Democrats in very safe races). Now the reason the GLBT issue came up is because Target has always supported the gay community, even sponsoring the MN Pride Parade, one of the biggest in the nation. Natch the GLBT community made a stink, as they should have, about Target supporting an extremist, homophobic fundamentalist nutjob for Governor.

    Target apologized for making the GLBT community and other supporters of equal rights upset. Unfortunately they did not apologize for embracing the execrable Citizens United decision and they have not taken back their money from MN Forward.

    In typical mediocre journalistic fashion, this is being reported that “Target apologized” and it’s all over with little to no mention of Citizens United. We activists are keeping the boycott alive by noting that a portion of every dollar you spend at Target and Best Buy supports Tea Partiers.

  10. Only humans can vote so I’d be fine if all spending on campaigns were limited to live human beings donating directly to candidates. Limiting those contributions to some dollar amount as they are now, does not infringe on free speech (heck, you can post a long missive to the Internets for free.)

    If that means unions, corporations, MoveOn, and the NRA alike are out then fine.

    1. You’d better watch what you touch in Target–Teh Ghey is communicable, y’know. You might be better off shopping at places like Cabela’s where no homosexual has ever set foot.

  11. If corporations are “people” under the law, and they want to contribute, then make a Federal campaign finance law that any ‘person’ cannot contribute more than $20,000 in campaign funds per calendar year. People would include corporations.

    Goldman Sachs, Google, Target, Maury Williamson of Boise: they can do whatever they want with that $20k. Maury can give 100% of it to the RNC or DNC or Emmer or whatever. Google can do what they want with it: split it up 100x, or all in one.

    That will let people individually contribute more, and add value to the money they DO contribute:

  12. Large or small, corporations are not people (natural persons) and they do not deserve the same rights. I have no problem with laws demanding more transparency for corporations than private individuals. I see no good outcome in protecting the “rights” of an intrinsically amoral organization that is only responsible to a fiscal bottom line. I don’t think this is an inconsistent position.

  13. >Probably saying “Target opposes gay marriage” is a lot like saying “my cat enjoys trying to trip me when I walk up the stairs”. It certainly seems that way, and the effect is the same, but my cat just isn’t capable of that kind of intentionality and emotion.< they show behavior that can be interpreted that way because there is a board of people directing the shape of the company as a whole. the intention and emotion can never be truly known for those individuals as well, except by the actions they enact through the company, but it is there, just hidden behind the store front facade. or it could be that someone decided to use corporate letterhead when unmarked stationary, the kind designated for personal use, was more appropriate. people get fired over that kind of slip up, unless they are on the board.

  14. my cat is totally capable of that kind of intentionality and is definitely trying to take me out and make it look like a simple trip and fall.

  15. ok im really confused, and i think im the only one.

    prop 8 is bad.

    i see line items indicating that money was spent for ‘no on 8’.

    not yes on 8 – no on 8.

    wtf am i missing here?

    1. $750 total spent on “No on 8.”
      $3250 total spent on “” (“Yes on 8”)

      Why they’d give money to both sides I don’t know, but clearly they favored one a lot more than the other.

  16. I’m rather tired of the equating opposition to so-called gay marriage with fear of homosexuals or hatred of homosexuals. Common sense tells me marriage is between members of the opposite sex. Unfortunately, common sense seems to be lost in discussions about this topic.

    1. I’m rather tired of the equating opposition to so-called mixed-race marriage with fear of other races or hatred of other races. Common sense tells me marriage is between members of the same race. Unfortunately, common sense seems to be lost in discussions about this topic.

      See, that one works just as well!

    2. then apply your “common sense” and don’t marry someone of the same sex. Common sense tells me that if ensuring the marginalization of a group of people is important to you, I’m going to go ahead and say you have a fear or hatred of that group.

    3. My common sense tells me differently, but fortunately common sense doesn’t trump civil rights and equality in the eyes of the law. Or at least, it shouldn’t.

    4. Maybe it is “common sense” to brutally use the force of government to oppress where you come from. Where I come from it is common sense to recognize that that the naughty bits combination of a couple is pretty fucking irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. Or are you in the shrill “marriage is about reproduction!” camp? If marriage law had a clause in it preventing infertile couples or couples with no intention of reproducing from getting married, and all marriages were dissolved once there were no more dependents, you might have a point.

    5. Heteronormativity tells me marriage is between members of the opposite sex. Unfortunately, heteronormativity seems to be lost in discussions about this topic.

      Fixed that for you.

  17. What bothers me the most in light of this news is that the HRC has been giving Target a Corporate Equality Index score of 100. I’ve always seen Target as a forward-thinking company, and it really disappoints me that they may not be after all. I’d love to hear what they have to say about this, because it’s going to hurt so much to boycott the $1 bins.

  18. Rob Beschizza – nice replied , solid reasoning.

    At first , I thought your vote’s private, but your donation is not. Then, I think why should votes be private?

    Some may say , so that people are not harassed.
    Shouldn’t we punish harassers instead. When a judge makes decision , they make public their decision along with their reasoning. When someone accuses another of crime, the accused has the right to face/question their accuser who cannot hide.

    Won’t we benefit if politicians have to provide reasons for their votes instead of a plain yay/nay and have their reasons examined by the public?

    Shouldn’t we know who politicians meet and what they talk about?

    I think we’re better off if we’re force to be honest with each other. If so , what good is a vote if someone cannot support it with reason in public.

    Like bkad , I would be interested in how others feel.

  19. As I recall, when I make an individual contribution to a candidate or a campaign, I’m required to provide the name of my employer. Did the pictured list result from data mining individual people’s contributions?

    This is appropriate data to compile, to expose companies which might try to conceal their corporate contributions by having their employees ‘contribute’ to those campaigns.

    However, working in reverse, to show the employers of people who contributed to campaigns can lead to (misleading) effects like this.

    As an employee, I should have the right to contribute to campaigns or candidates I support.

    As long as it’s my own money (time, front lawn space, etc), this should NOT reflect on my employer nor suggest a corporate or institutional support.

    From the trifling amounts, it’s hard to believe that megacorp Target (or Dayton Hudson, the parent corp) made these contributions.

  20. As a part time grunt employee of a Target store for the past 2 years, I can tell you by experience they are very pro-LBGT in both treatment of employees in an official capacity, as well as hiring. The LBGT employees are treated just as nicely as the rest of us (without sarcasm, my store has superb managers).

    Commenters so far seem to be overlooking the concept that donation to a cause does not always equal support of that cause, whereas there could be several reasons to donate to a cause that opposes other issues you are in favor of. I am interested to learn of any communication to the supported groups between Target regarding the donations, such as if they were matching-style offers, or if they had been arranged in a good-faith agreement to cover a cost that Target could more easily provide (such as a donation of tables and chairs) that ended up equaling that amount — or was it specifically a check written for that amount? The motive isn’t clear in a Truth sense, only in manners of haphazard guessing. Could assets (like phones, or water coolers) have been donated to the office in which the current group resides, whereby they would pass on those assets once the need for that groups duty had expired, in a good faith donation, whereby technically the donation had to be written out as to that group? Could they have donated services like computer networking setup by their in-house tech gurus, and written out as a retail equivalent for current rates of such service? All we have is a number, and not motive at all.

    1. As a part time grunt employee of a Target store for the past 2 years, I can tell you by experience they are very pro-LBGT in both treatment of employees in an official capacity, as well as hiring. The LBGT employees are treated just as nicely as the rest of us (without sarcasm, my store has superb managers).

      Apologist much?

      Um, that’s not out of the kindness of Target’s corporate hearts, that’s because of progressive laws on the books that would get them sued for discrimination if they behaved otherwise.

      Meanwhile, they undermine that same community by giving money to causes that, well… undermine them.

      Have you hugged a progressive today? You should. And thank one while you’re at it.

  21. Mark Dayton (Democratic gubernatorial candidate) and Dayton Hudson Corp (later renamed Target Corp.) have absolutely nothing to do with Target Corp today. See the wikipedia pages below for details.

    I live in Roseville, MN about 2 miles from Target store #1. I abhor Walmart, but generally like Target. These unlimited political corporate contributions by Target and Best Buy, now allowed by the SCOTUS ruling on Citizens United case, have me rethinking both Target and BB. I work for a major/top fortune 500 company in Minneapolis. The shinola would hit the fan if they were to contribute to Emmer & the tea baggers like Emmer & Michele Bachmann.

  22. From the Summary Page for Target Corp:

    , rather the money came from the organization’s PAC, its individual members or employees or owners, and those individuals’ immediate families.

    (emphasis theirs).

    Now, coming from the Target PAC would lead to justified complaints, as the PAC is an extension of the company; however, employees are not. It strikes me as entirely inappropriate for a company to monitor the political activities of its employees, and punishing Target for employee donations would require exactly this.

    And given the small amounts donated to the marriage initiatives, it seems most likely that these were employee donations.

  23. Personally, I think Target’s contribution goes beyond just this topic. The bottom line is that many people, with various political views, shop these retailers, and in the end, it is our monies being contributed! When you depend on people from all walks of life to support your business, you don’t take sides, or have “personal” opinions!

    I don’t feel corporations should be allowed to voice personal political views at all…not under anything to do with their company name or logo anyway. If they would like to make “personal” contributions, with money out of their own pockets, as private citizens, then go for it!

    To make a contribution, when you employ people with various political views, in a manner, is holding them accountable for your own private philosophies! I highly doubt the gay man or woman, running the checkout, appreciates working for a company that opposes their views! Same goes for any political view offered!

    If the CEO, or whoever made the contribution, wanted to do so…it should have been under his own name, with money from his own account. I find this act disrespectful to all its customers. The next donation could be in opposition to something you find important!

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