Target Apologizes For MN Donations but May Have also Supported Prop 8

On August 5, Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel wrote employees to say the discount retailer was “genuinely sorry” over the way a $150,000 contribution to MN Forward played out. Steinhafel said Target would set up a review process for future political donations but did not give any indication that the company would cease making large political donations.


MN Forward is an outside Political Action Committee which was seemingly created for the purpose of supporting Republican Gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer whose anti-gay crusade is said to be something epic. His campaign aligned itself with a “hard rock ministry” (as in heavy metal musicians who preach Christianity to you) called “You Can Run, But You Can’t Hide International”.

Andy Birkey of the Minnesota Independent reports that “You Can Run” is a ministry that brings its hard rock evangelism into public schools across the Midwest and its front man, Bradlee Dean, told radio listeners recently that Muslim countries that call for the execution of gays and lesbians are “more moral than even the American Christians.”

Donating $150,000 to a man who clearly endorses bans on gay parenthood and more tacitly endorses anti-gay genocide is a highly inflammatory thing for a corporation to do as far as gay rights advocacy groups like the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) are concerned. The Target Corporation had previously received glowing support from HRC due to their inclusive employee policies such as same-sex domestic partner benefits and an anti-discrimination policy., the largest Democratic advocacy group in the USA also supports boycotting Target but with a slightly different spin. They argue that such a large donation from a corporation to a candidate for Governor was not possible before activist judges on the Supreme Court overturned campaign financing regulations in the notorious Citizens United case. The idea is that the donation would have been wrong even if Emmer had been pro-gay because it still amounts to one person, in this case Steinhafel, purchasing more political clout than voters have.

In one day, Target lost $1.3 billion in value and some observers said the threat of a boycott was one cause,” says Ilyse Hogue speaking for, “but Target won’t stop trying to buy elections.”

Most recently though, an even bigger saga is unfolding for Target and that is the dispute as to whether or not Target Corporation donated to Proposition 8 in California. Target says they didn’t but the Center For Responsive Politics ( maintains that they did.

In correspondence with SFGN staff via facebook, Target representatives said “Target did not, nor has the company ever, knowingly donated to legislation or referendums that aim to undermine equality for all, including Proposition 8 in California. Further, Target’s support of the GLBT community is unwavering, and inclusiveness remains a core value of our company.”

But, the official website for the Center for Responsive Politics clearly shows a donation made to – the Proposition 8 Campaign in excess of $3,000 on Target’s 2008 filings.  This would not only undercut Target’s claim that anti-gay politics were not a motivation in their MN Forward donation, but might also show Target to be dishonest. It is hard to imagine that a corporation could “unknowingly” give thousands of dollars to such a hotly contested state ballot measure.

When SFGN asked CRP to confirm the data, their Communications Director, Dave Levinthal said “that data comes from the National Institute on Money in State Politics” and recommended re-directing the question to them.

According to Denise Roth Barber, Research Director at the Institute, there are a few different ways that the information could have found its way onto the CRP’s “Open Secrets” website but it was “unlikely” that such a comparatively small donation was made by Target as a corporation. But she said the money could have been donated by employees at Target and mistakenly interpreted as a donation from the company.

As discovered by actually combing through thousands of contributions to in 2008, it is likely that Barber’s scenario is the best hypothesis for the information does not appear in other sources. There were four Target team members in the State of California who donated a total of about $3,000 and one of them, Janis Williams of Auburn, CA donated the bulk of that money – exactly $2,000. The other three as reported to the state of California are Renee Snyder, with a Target Presentation Team in Upland, Kevin Releford, a Target Corporation General Manager from Elk Grove and Paul Badger, a Target Manager in Irvine each donated between $250 and $500 to pass Proposition 8.

There are other possibilities like late filings and ways that a corporation can funnel donations through lawyers to avoid being tied to their giving, but the National Institute on Money in State Politics says it has not researched those possibilities with the alleged Target donation to Prop 8, likely because the dollar amount is insignificant when compared to the 40+ Million Dollars brought in for the year 2008. After all land developer Claire Reiss donated $1 Million of her personal fortune to see that gays would not marry.