Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Target Practice

We got another lesson on how our country and our politics work, this time from Target.

A campaign contribution to a well-known anti-gay politician in Minnesota has become a rather large public relations nightmare for Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel--and the store now faces boycotts and backlash from the gay community.

Target's Chief Executive Steinhafel said gay employees have been concerned about the money helping state Rep. Tom Emmer, who opposes gay marriage. Target gave $150,000 to MN Forward, a group staffed by former insiders from outgoing Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty's administration. MN Forward is running TV ads supporting Emmer.

The Associated Press reports that Emmer is a fiery conservative who lauds Arizona's strict approach to illegal immigration, once advocated chemical castration for sex offenders and wants to lower taxes. His profile contrasts with Target's moderate image in Minnesota, where the company is known for donating to public school programs, food pantries and the annual Twin Cities Gay Pride Festival.

Following the money trail, the Minnesota Independent has also linked Emmer to a Minnesota Christian "punk-rock ministry" that supports the killing of gays and lesbians.

It would be easy enough for me to get up here on my pulpit and say I'm going to boycott Target for as long as it takes. Honestly, I feel that would be somewhat misleading. Not because I would secretly continue to shop there and none of you would know anyway (except my local readers who might actually bump into me there). It's because I already don't shop at Target, even when I thought they were the good guys!

I may go in a Target once a year, if even that often. So it's not at all a stretch on my part to add Target to the personal boycott list which includes Wal-Mart, Exxon Mobile, and others. (And again, to be honest, I've bought something at Wal-Mart within the past 3 years -- I had a gift card from someone.)

The fact of the matter is this: Corporations are going to do what is best for them first. Even if it seems they are stabbing a certain group in the back. They can just make an excuse, say "sorry," and then throw a wad of cash at a gay pride event, and everything will be OK again. In this case, they don't say "sorry." But Target's CEO Gregg Steinhafel did have an excuse (bold emphasis mine):
"We rarely endorse all advocated positions of the organizations or candidates we support, and we do not have a political or social agenda," Steinhafel wrote. "As you know, Target has a history of supporting organizations and candidates, on both sides of the aisle, who seek to advance policies aligned with our business objectives, such as job creation and economic growth...Let me be very clear, Target's support of the GLBT community is unwavering, and inclusiveness remains a core value of our company."

Yeah. Their support may be "unwavering," but you can bet your Queer ass it will get trumped every time by the "business objectives" of The Corporation. Because that's how shit works.
Money from Target's top executives has gone mainly to Republicans. Former Chief Executive Officer Robert Ulrich, who retired last year, gave $617,000 during his time as Target's leader, most of it to the state GOP. Current Chief Executive Gregg Steinhafel has donated about $25,000, almost exclusively to Republican candidates and causes, including at least $1,000 to Michele Bachmann's "Victory Committee."

We need to get it through our heads that we can't have it both ways either. Frankly, Target can take their support of the Twin Cities Gay Pride Festival and whatever other "unwavering" support they provide, and shove it up their proverbial ass.

Corporations are about getting power and making profits for their boards of directors and their stockholders. There's no better way of doing that than making sure you have a few politicians on a leash who will carry on with passing legislation to achieve that objective.

If we want to get back at them, the best way of doing so is to elect politicians who care more about us, the people, than them, the corporations and big business. That would be a far greater victory than waging some boycott whereby a tiny fraction of their customer base suddenly finds another outlet for consumption.

I'm not suggesting we don't boycott. By all means, knock yourselves out. I won't be going to Target. But the sad truth remains: even if Target suddenly stopped the practice of donating money to the most disgusting political candidates, the other corporations -- the ones responsible for the manufacture and marketing of the products we buy -- are engaging in exactly the same reprehensible tactics.

This will not stop until we stop it.

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