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Target revises policy on political donations, but little has changed

Saturday, February 19, 2011
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Target has revised its policy on political contributions, following a furor that arose last year when it was revealed the retailer had donated money to a political action group that supported an anti-gay candidate for for Minnesota governor.

In July 2010, The Minneapolis-based retail chain gave $150,000 to the Republican-friendly fund “Minnesota Forward,” a political action group that campaigned on behalf of gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer, a staunch opponent of same-sex marriage, who, in 2007, authored a constitutional amendment to prohibit same-sex marriage and civil unions.

News of the donation drew protests by the LGBT community, Target became the target of nationwide boycotts, and the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) stripped the retailer of its perfect score on its annual Corporate Equality Index, and dropped it from its annual buyers guide.

Target now says it has conducted a thorough review of its policies regarding political actions and contributions, and that a committee of senior executives will review a political contribution before it’s made.

The Minnesota Independent reports:

On Thursday, Target announced a new set of policies around corporate political contributions.

Now, before general corporate funds can be used for political donations, they’ll have to go through a policy committee comprised of senior Target executives that’s “responsible for balancing our business interests with any other considerations that may be important to our team members, guests or other stakeholders,” according to the new policies posted on the Target website.

The policy committee will be in charge of those decisions regardless of whether the contribution is to an independent group such as MN Forward or to a political action committee.

The change doesn’t necessarily mend any fences with local LGBT advocates.

In December, a report by The Awl revealed that Target continued donating to anti-gay politicians even after CEO Gregg Steinhafel reaffirmed the company’s long-standing support for gay rights and committed to reforming the review process for future political donations.

The broad language of the new policy – “the use of general corporate funds for political contributions is permitted if the Policy Committee determines that would be an appropriate means of advancing issues that are important to our business” — simply means that Target will continue donating money to candidates who are friendly to the company’s corporate interests, regardless of their position on LGBT equality.

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