Politics

Target Donates $150K To Group Supporting Candidate Who Wants To Cut Waiters’ Minimum Wage

Earlier this year, Republicans were overjoyed when the Supreme Court overturned “a 63-year-old law designed to restrain the influence of big business and unions on elections.” As Common Cause noted, January’s Citizens United decision enhanced “the ability of the deepest-pocketed special interests to influence elections and the U.S. Congress.”

Thanks to Citizens United, Target is now a major Republican donor, giving $150,000 to MN Forward, a “Republican-friendly political fund staffed by insiders from departing GOP Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s administration.” The AP reports on the retail chain’s new activism:

A Target spokeswoman said the company supports causes and candidates “based strictly on issues that affect our retail and business objectives.” Spokeswoman Lena Michaud said Target has a history of giving in state and local races where allowed, but wouldn’t provide detail on those donations.

She added that TargetCitizens, the company’s federal political action committee, has spread donations evenly between Democrats and Republicans so far this year. Political action committees contribute money collected from employees and shareholders, not from corporate funds.

Target’s donations to MN Forward – $100,000 in cash and $50,000 in brand consulting — slightly exceeds the total amount the company has given this year to all campaigns and causes at the federal level. By contrast, individuals can give a maximum of only $2,000 to candidates under Minnesota law.

MN Forward is running ads supporting Tom Emmer, the presumptive GOP nominee for Minnesota governor. Target spokeswoman Lena Michaud said the company gives money to candidates who are focused on making “economic growth a priority.”

Emmer’s — and, apparently, Target’s — idea of “economic growth” involves slashing the wages of working Americans. This month, Emmer proposed cutting the minimum wage for service workers who receive tips, such as bartenders and waiters. Attempting to justify these cuts, Emmer claimed that some of these employees earn “over $100,000 a year” and often make more than the people who employ them:

“With the tips that they get to take home, they are some people earning over $100,000 a year. More than the very people providing the jobs and investing not only their life savings but their families’ future,” Emmer said. […]

“Government can only inhibit business, can only keep it from growing, as opposed to creating jobs,” he said. “Right now, we have too much of it, guys. We’ve got to pull government back.”

Of course, most Minnesota food and beverage service workers don’t earn anything near $100,000 a year. Emmer’s other extreme views include advocating nullification of certain parts of the Constitution and declaring health care reform unconstitutional. He also embraces Arizona’s far-right immigration law and once proposed chemical castration for sex offenders.

Target’s support of Emmer and MN Forward is also angering LGBT activists, who viewed the company as progressive on gay issues. The retail chain is “one of the largest sponsors of LGBT events around Minnesota each year.” Emmer, however, has supported a “constitutional marriage amendment that protects traditional marriage.” In light of its corporate giving, Twin Cities Pride said it is “reviewing its partnership with Target.” OutFront Minnesota released a statement reading, “Emmer stands alone among candidates for governor in opposing equality for GLBT Minnesotans. Target should not stand with him.” (Change.org has a petition demanding that Target stop donating to anti-gay politicians here.)

Target also recently hired the chief of staff to Sen. John Thune (R-SD) to become its new head lobbyist.

UPDATE

Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel today defended his company’s donations to MN Forward, and said his company’s commitment to LGBT issues is “unwavering“:

“We rarely endorse all advocated positions of the organizations or candidates we support, and we do not have a political or social agenda,” Steinhafel said in an e-mail.

He added: “Let me be very clear, Target’s support of the GLBT community is unwavering, and inclusiveness remains a core value of our company.

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,Steinhafel has also personally donated $5,000 — the maximum allowable individual contribution — to Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN).

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