At first glance, it appears Target, that Minnesota-based company with the cute white dog and bullseye as marketing ploys (and sales that best any department store) waffles more than the middling Minnesotan, Senator Al Franken. But a closer look proves it's really a greedy, narcissistic, free-market- loving business like any other with half the entrepreneurial spirit and twice the industrial brain.
A few weeks ago, Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel surprised locals when he apologized to company leaders for making a $150,000 contribution to a conservative group, Minnesota Forward, which backs the Republican nominee for Governor, Tom Emmer. The apology was prompted by outcries of disgust and calls to boycott Target by LGBT groups, specifically the Washington, D.C.-based Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the largest gay rights organization in the country; Emmer, of course, opposes gay rights. A Facebook group boycotting Target had grown to -- gasp -- 58,000 people. While local economists began to calculate how Target might recover from such a profit loss, the HRC also proposed a boycott to Best Buy, which gave $100,000 to MN Forward as well (but whose CEO didn't publicly apologize for the gift).
Boycott notwithstanding, Steinhafel buckled under the pressure and the bucket-loads of criticism -- but only momentarily. Time has proved he's not completely without a spine, or a calculating brain.
Despite his apology, Target's donation represents a deliberate business decision, not blatant bigotry. According to a Star Tribune article, "Target had tried for days to emphasize that the $150,000 donation to MN Forward, a pro-business group backing Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer, was based solely on a tax and jobs platform. But because of Emmer's stance against gay marriage, many perceived the donation as flying in the face of Target's longstanding commitment to workplace equality."
The HRC, in all its self-righteous vanity has been speaking with Target for the last couple weeks not only to discuss the company's pert and discriminatory gift but to pressure it to give gay rights groups equal monetary-love. But alas, Target held its ground, to the chagrin of the HRC. Reports the Star Tribune: "After 'two weeks of good-faith discussions, and two tentative agreements,' Target decided not to contribute to groups supporting gay-rights candidates in Minnesota." Quipped the HRC's President Joe Solmonese: "All fair-minded Americans will now rightly question Target's commitment to equality. If their initial contribution was a slap in the face, their refusal to make it right is a punch in the gut and that's not something that we will soon forget."
Target's CEO should respond thusly: Likely, any clear-thinking American will now rightly applaud Target's commitment to free-market principles. If we were more concerned with political correctness rather than contributing to retaining and creating jobs, we'd agree to give to groups which support candidates who support hiking taxes and regulating businesses, a slap in the face and punch in the gut for us for sure.
Unfortunately, he gave no such speech. Rather, Target responded with a ho-hum statement that while it wasn't planning on giving money to gay advocacy groups, it sure does "remain committed" to them and to "inclusiveness." That should placate them for five minutes.
It's surprising -- though I guess, it shouldn't be -- that in this economic climate, advocacy groups would pressure businesses for something as patently absurd as a "fair and balanced" contribution to them. As if for-profit companies belong to a Corporate Little League, where each player gets to play the same amount of time on the field, regardless of skill.
Even MoveOn.org has joined in the charade. It's airing an ad that encourages people to boycott Target to stop it and other big box retailers from trying to "buy our elections." The red and white ad which resembles those of the retailer shows a Target Bullseye man tossing aside both the GOP elephant and the Democrats' donkey in favor of Lady Liberty. For all its own financial backing and on-the-spot ingenuity in ad buys, MoveOn.org has missed the point entirely -- big surprise. Despite its mainstream media membership, MSNBC has not. It has refused to run the ad because it's an attack on a specific business and therefore doesn't "comply with NBC's 'Controversial Issue Advertising policy.'"
Either the HRC and other similar groups remains blind to the current economic phenomenon or they're aware but indifferent. (The latter proves compelling.) They and MoveOn.org make this issue one of bigotry, a lack of empathy towards gay rights. Minnesota Forward ran television ads promoting Tom Emmer, the Republican running for governor, because he supports lower taxes, de-regulation, and small businesses. As politically correct as Target might like to be, if just to avoid the bad press and a "Boycott Target" Facebook page, its bottom line should be the only bottom line. To quote one of the best movie lines about business: "It's not personal, it's business."
Even the Star Tribune concluded: "Target and Best Buy say their donations, which came directly from corporate coffers under a new Supreme Court ruling, were driven by business reasons."
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