Hundreds call on Target to refrain from political spending

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  • Dale Eisman

Affiliated institutional investors question Target executives on political spending policy

PITTSBURGH, PA — As shareholders of Minneapolis-based Target Corporation gathered for the first time since the company came under fire for its 2010 campaign contributions, hundreds of activists demonstrated outside their meeting today in Pittsburgh, calling on Target to refrain from using corporate profits for political spending.

“Target should stick to business and stop meddling in our democracy,” said Mike Dean, executive director of Common Cause Minnesota, a lead organizer of the event. “Target Corporation has failed to learn from the controversy last year by continuing to make corporate political donations.”

Last year, in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which permitted corporations to spend unlimited amounts from their treasuries on politics, Target donated

$150,000 to a political group supporting Minnesota gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer. The donation sparked a consumer boycott and the value of Target stock plunged by 3.5 percent, or $1.3 billion. Critics found Target’s support for Emmer, an opponent of same-sex marriage rights, sharply at odds with the progressive image Target has cultivated on social issues.

While activists marched outside today, affiliated institutional investors entered the shareholder meeting to question Target executives about the company’s political spending policies. Dean, who was inside the shareholder meeting, said questions about Target’s political spending dominated the meeting. In particular, shareholders questioned whether board members and auditors have created effective checks and balances on how Target Corporation makes political donations from the general treasury. Those checks should have been there to ensure that such donations actually met the business interests of Target and its shareholder, Dean said.

“Target was known for having policies which supported civil rights of all people. When Target made a donation last summer to Minnesota Forward, which supported Tom Emmer, those policies were upended,” said Thomas Waters, the advocacy chair of the Delta Foundation, which participated in the protest. “We are asking Target Corporation to make it right by pledging to end its practice of giving corporate treasury money to political organizations and activities.”