From Politico.com: Target Corp., for now, has rejected demand from the Human Rights Campaign that the retailer donate to pro-gay rights candidates in order to balance its contribution to a group backing Minnesota Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer, an ardent opponent of gay marriage.
In a statement released Monday, HRC President Joe Solmonese said “all fair-minded Americans will now rightly question Target’s commitment to equality.”
The company maintained it fully supports the gay and lesbian community, but decided to keep its options open to avoid the appearance that it made a political donation as the result of outside pressure, “given the current political and emotionally charged environment” surrounding the election.
“We believe that it is impossible to avoid turning any further actions into a political issue and will use the benefit of time to make thoughtful, careful decisions on how best to move forward,” according to a statement the company issued Monday.
HRC and MoveOn.org, a liberal political action group, have spearheaded petition drives and a boycott of Target since it became public that the retail chain gave $150,000 to a business group backing Emmer, a conservative who also has angered the progressive community for his positions on abortion and birth control.
The donation, which came from Target’s business account rather than an internal political action committee, was made possible by a controversial Supreme Court decision issued earlier this year that overturned a long-standing ban on corporate political activity.
Target officials have said they gave to the newly formed business group, MN Forward, to show support for Emmer’s record on economic issues and because he appeared to be the strongest pro-business candidate in the race.
After employees and outside groups complained, Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel issued memos to his workers explaining his motivation for the donation and apologizing if it upset them. He also reiterated the company’s commitment to equal rights within the workplace and its sponsorship of gay rights events in Minnesota.
But MoveOn and HRC weren’t satisfied. HRC had hoped to convince the firm to donate $150,000 to pro-gay rights candidates and groups in Minnesota to “make right” its support for Emmer. After weeks of negotiations, HRC officials said Monday that the talks had broken down without a deal.
HRC said it will devote $150,000 of its resources to defeat Emmer. And MoveOn members are still calling for a boycott of the national chain that had nurtured strong ties to the gay community through its store locations, marketing and nondiscriminatory employee benefits program.
In addition, Solmonese said the gay community is now pressuring Best Buy Co. Inc., which donated $100,000 to MN Forward’s pro-Emmer advertising campaign. Like Target, Best Buy receives one of the highest corporate rankings for workplace equality issues from the HRC.
While nodding to those rankings, Solmonese said that “before they can regain that exalted status among their consumers, they need to make things right in Minnesota.”