Target of the Left

We wrote here about the left’s campaign against Target, based on the company’s contribution of $100,000 to Minnesota Forward, a PAC that supports Republican Tom Emmer in the race for Governor of Minnesota, Target’s home state.
This story is a highly revealing one. Leftists organized a boycott of Target on the pretext that Emmer is opposed to gay marriage. That’s true; Emmer opposes gay marriage, as do the vast majority of Minnesotans and Americans, and as does President Obama. If Target contributed to a PAC that supports Obama, do you think the left would organize a boycott?
Target’s support for Emmer had nothing to do with gay marriage, of course. Target, like most big companies, goes far out of its way to be gay-friendly. But Emmer’s Democratic opponent, Mark Dayton, wants a drastic increase in taxes on “the rich”–which is to say, the employees that Target needs to attract to Minnesota to run its business. Target’s success is threatened by monolithic Democratic control over Minnesota’s state government, and its contribution to Minnesota Forward was miniscule in the context of those stakes.
Nor is gay marriage a focus of Emmer’s campaign. Last summer at the Minnesota State Fair, I listened to Emmer answer questions from an audience. Someone asked his position on gay marriage. “I don’t care about gay marriage,” Emmer responded, “I’m here to talk about jobs.” So why has the left singled out support for Emmer, as opposed to any of the thousands of candidates around the country, many of them Democrats, who don’t support gay marriage, as the subject of a boycott?
Ironically, Mark Dayton’s family owned the predecessor to Target Corporation. He is immensely rich. His increased taxes on “the rich”–that is, you and me–won’t touch his vast trust funds. Other than himself, his principal financial supporter is his ex-wife, the former Alida Rockefeller. There is a very real possibility that Dayton, a mentally troubled person at best who has never earned an honest day’s wage in his life, may succeed in buying the election.
What is remarkable about the attack on Target is the extent to which it is sponsored by the establishment. Today’s Minneapolis Star Tribune reports that the attack on Target continues:

The backlash from gay-rights supporters against Target Corp.’s recent political donation now includes some institutional shareholders.
Three management firms that collectively hold $57.5 million of Target stock — Walden Asset Management, Calvert Asset Management and Trillium Asset Management — filed a proposal asking Target’s independent board members to undertake a “comprehensive review of Target’s political contributions and spending processes including the criteria used for such contributions,” according to a statement released Thursday night. …
According to the Los Angeles Times, other institutional investors, including the giant New York state pension fund and union investment managers, are considering co-signing the Target resolution, the latest chapter in the ongoing controversy that has beset Target for more than three weeks.
“Target should have carefully considered the implications that direct political contributions can have toward shareholder value,” Ola Fadahunsi, spokesman for New York Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, the pension fund’s sole trustee, told the newspaper. “It’s troubling to think that they can fund controversial candidates without properly assessing the risks and rewards involved.”

Of course, if Target had backed a Democrat who advocated higher taxes and gay marriage, there would be no boycott and no calls for investigations by institutional shareholders. What is happening here is that the left is trying to bully companies into forgoing their constitutional right to advocate for their interests, as labor unions and countless non-profits do. Leftists are making an example of Target in hopes of intimidating other companies who fear the effects of higher taxes and mindless government regulation.
This kind of episode makes it seem inevitable that the establishment will succeed in jamming gay marriage down the throats of Americans. And the utterly incidental role of gay marriage in the Minnesota gubernatorial campaign suggests that there will be a lot more jamming where that came from.
UPDATE: My friend Mitch Berg, who has led the news coverage of this story, argues that the Strib is making a mountain out of a molehill:

Small Potatoes: 57.5 million dollars in Target stock equals about 0.0015 of Target Corp’s $38,190,000,000 (that’s thirty eight billion dollar and change) market capitalization; fifteen dollars out of every ten thousand worth of Target market capitalization.
That’s like taking fifteen cents out of a hundred dollars.
The amount of Target Corp stock owned by the three firms named in the story would have to move the decimal point a couple notches to even qualify as “pissing in the wind”.
This is not a serious challenge to Target. …

Mitch goes on to point out, with links, that the institutional investors that called for an investigation of Target’s contributions are left-wing “socially responsible investing” funds. Which explains why they care more about pursuing a liberal vendetta than about Target’s competitive viability. Mitch also exposes false claims that the Minnesota Forward controversy has impacted Target’s share price.
I think Mitch is right about all of the above. But I don’t think it changes the basic point that the organized left has been able to cause a major headache for one of America’s biggest companies, simply in order to advance a far-left agenda. Target likely will never again contribute to a PAC that supports free market-friendly candidates, and we will never know how many other companies will be deterred from exercising their constitutional rights by the bullying of Target–successful bullying, as Target has backed off from its support of Minnesota Forward and ordered a review of its contribution policies.

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