Back in 2010, Target Corporation was forced to apologize when it came out that it had funded campaign ads on behalf of virulently anti-gay Minnesota gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer. The controversy hit the Minnesota-based company hard, in part because it vocally supports gay rights and has a reputation as a supportive workplace for LGBT people.
But Target didn’t stop giving to anti-gay candidates. As Abe Sauer reported at the end of 2010, Target gave a total of $31,200 to anti-gay candidates in that election cycle. And now, the company is indirectly funding one of the most extreme anti-gay culture warriors in the country, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.
Target reports that in the first half of this year, it contributed $50,000 to the Republican Governors Association, which so far this year has spent nearly $3 million on behalf of Cuccinelli’s gubernatorial campaign.
Target, like many large corporations, is an equal opportunity influence-buyer – it also gave $50,000 this year to the Democratic Governors Association, which is supporting Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe. But its indirect funding of Cuccinelli’s campaign raises additional questions. In apologizing to his employees for the company’s contributions to Emmer’s campaign, Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel promised to launch “a strategic review and analysis of our decision-making process for financial contributions in the public policy arena” and to start “a dialogue focused on diversity and inclusion in the workplace, including GLBT issues.”
How did that “dialogue” lead to support for an organization that is dedicating itself to supporting Ken Cuccinelli? After all, Cuccinelli not only opposes advances in gay rights, he actively wants to remove protections for gays and lesbians that have already been won. Cuccinelli wants to reinstate Virginia’s “Crimes Against Nature Law,” which would outlaw oral sex between consenting adults – of any gender. In one of his first acts as attorney general, he ordered the state’s colleges and universities to rescind non-discrimination policies that covered sexual orientation. He has said that being gay “brings nothing but self-destruction, not only physically but of their souls,” and said that “homosexual acts” are “intrinsically wrong” and don’t comport with natural law.” He even disparaged gay rights activists for trying to overturn sodomy bans and push for HIV/AIDS educations in schools.
Last year, Target launched a line of t-shirts to benefit a gay rights group, declaring itself “100 percent committed to the goal of families being respected in all communities including parents who happen to be LGBT." Yet, in Cuccinelli, Target is backing a candidate who is promising to roll back the rights of LGBT people and their families in Virginia.
Update: Target spokeswoman Molly Snyder tells us:
Target’s commitment to the LGBT community is long-standing and unwavering.
We also believe strongly in our civic responsibility to engage in a bipartisan manner at the state and federal level in order to learn about public policy priorities and advocate on issues that affect our business, such as efairness legislation. One of the ways we do this is through membership in both the Democratic and Republican Governors Associations, both of which include several hundred other corporate members. When paying for our memberships, we explicitly require that our dues not be used for any individual electoral campaigns or other electioneering efforts. It would therefore be wrong and inaccurate to associate our membership dues with any particular political candidate or campaign.
It’s hard to tell how supporting an organization that says its “primary mission is to help elect Republicans to governorships throughout the nation” doesn’t amount to supporting Republican candidates for governorships.