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Target shareholders pepper CEO over donations to anti-gay politicians

Thursday, June 9, 2011
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Target Corp. Chairman Gregg Steinhafel on Wednesday faced some unexpected questions at the company’s annual meeting from shareholders who wanted answers about the company’s funding of anti-gay politicians.

Steinhafel was peppered with questions about a $150,000 donation Target made in 2010 to MN Forward, a group that supported gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer. Emmer, who lost the race to Gov. Mark Dayton, supported a proposed amendment to Minnesota constitution to ban gay marriage.

Several shareholders and shoppers were disappointed after Target donated money to the group. Musician Lady Gaga, who supports gay rights, walked away from plans to sell a special album at Target in early 2011.

Bill de Blasio, New York City public advocate and trustee of the New York City employees retirement system, which holds about $50 million in Target shares, said on Tuesday that he is “deeply concerned” when he sees those pension investments used unwisely.

A number of shareholders at Wednesday’s meeting echoed his comments, repeatedly asking Steinhafel about the donation. Target has changed its review process for donations since the MN Forward donation, but some shareholders would like to see a more explicit apology and broader change from the company.

Target’s donation led to nationwide boycotts of the retailer among LGBT consumers and allies, and the retailer continued to fund anti-gay politicians after Steinhafel issued a public apology.

Sales at Target stores open at least a year rose 2.8 percent, at the low end of the company’s expectations; Target’s stock plunged 21.7 percent from the beginning of 2011 through Tuesday.

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