28 August 2010

Oh Target…

As I am sure you all know, Target came under some publicity fire a few weeks ago. Long story short (you all know how to google so I will just sum it up here) Target directly donated money to a political organization and it was then discovered that said organization was backing a candidate who has a strong anti-gay stance and even belongs to an organization with highly questionable notions of how to "eradicate" this "problem" of homosexuality. Public outcry ensued, boycotts were demanded and all hell broke loose. Personally I found myself in a huge conundrum. I love Target and so much of my fiscal solvency depends on shopping there, yet I hate to think even a single penny of my money went to support this loathsome person. Clearly I had to dig deeper.

Here is what I learned in no particular order:

  • Target donated $150,000.
  • The company donated under the auspices of making a contribution to a bi-partisan political organization that would encourage job development in Target's home state of MN.
  • The candidates were announced after the donation was made.
  • Target was one of the first companies to extend benefits to same-sex partners and the company routinely donates to pro-LGBT causes.
  • All of this is now allowed thank to the Supreme Court ruling that allows corporations to donate directly to political campaigns.
So here's the deal as I see it. Target has done way more good than bad in terms of forwarding LGBT causes and compared to the money spent daily to support benefits for same-sex partners and enforcing EOE rules, $150,000 is a drop in the bucket. Additionally, while I find it hard to imagine that no one knew this horrible politician was a possible recipient of support from these monies, I never cease to be surprised by just how little research companies actually do on a daily basis. While I would have to say that the board of directors are idiots for not noticing this, I do buy the story that the monies were donated to an organization that appeared to be providing bi-partisan support for economic development. Lastly, and I hate to say this because it goes against all my bleeding-heart liberal inclinations, but I think the organization that called for a boycott and protests did the issue a huge disservice. While the issue of how this politician could negatively impact gay-rights deserves evaluation, I am not sure this knee-jerk reaction gets to the larger political issue that needs to be discussed.

The real issue here is that the recent ruling allows corporations to directly purchase their politicians and how this fact will have far reaching implications. The associated transparency will also require corporations to think long and hard about just where they put their money. While I think the public outcry in this case may have been misdirected (there should have been outcry, but demanding that people stop shopping there hence decreasing the money that provides daily support to same-sex families is a bit like shooting yourself in the foot) the fact that public outcry ensued teaches us all a lot about how this kind of political/business game playing is going to go down in the future. I am interested to see what the follow-up on all this is; both in terms of how Target "makes amends" and in how/if any other major corporations decide to donate their money.

As for me, I will continue to shop there knowing that my money supports many good charitable endeavors. In terms of the big picture, if I am going to get on my high horse about crossing party lines and looking for bi-partisan solutions to this country's problems, then I need to suck it up and agree that supporting a bi-partisan organization is a step in the right direction. Maybe I am going straight to hell for this choice, but at least I think I can claim it is an educated and well-thought out choice, even if it may be the wrong one.


Heidi Maxwell said...

This is SO good to hear. I was devastated at the thought of having to stop shopping at Target.

Alexis said...

I know, I generally am willing to change my habits for the sake of political support, but really, I am only human. Plus, I think it is way too easy to jump on the "boycott the evil doers" bandwagon when in actuality, the actual evil-doers might surprise you. No company is perfect so I guess we all just need to check it out case by case. What a drama llama! This also opens up the question of just when does this whole ethical/moral superiority thing become a class issue since not everyone in America can afford to make these changes? That is some deep stuff.