Monday, March 28, 2011

A Target for extortion

The Target stores versus gay rights groups issue has been stirred up again recently when Target filed a lawsuit against Canvass for a Cause to allegedly stop the group from harassing customers on store property.

I try to give me friends on the left the benefit of the doubt when I can, and that's why this issue has me so flabbergasted. What happened is the Target corporation, which has it's headquarters in Minneapolis, gave $150,000 to MN Forward, a political action committee that funnels campaign money to politicians with a pro-business agenda.

One of those candidates was Tom Emmer, a Republican candidate for governor who supports positions that favor large businesses. He also is against gay marriage, and that's why all the ignorance spilled out last July.

Gay activists said they couldn't understand why Target, a company that voluntarily gives marriage benefits to same-sex partners of employees and sponsors gay pride events and gay workplace advancement groups, would turn around and give money to thwarting gay marriage. They seemed absolutely baffled, and that's why the protest signs and the boycott threats came so fast and furiously.

It seemed to never occur to anyone that the Target corporation had no interest in gay marriage, and instead, instead gave money to a group it believed would aid their bottom line and unfortunately, that usually overlaps with anti-gay sentiments. If the politicians who support gay marriage didn't have such a bitter anti-corporate agenda then no doubt Target would have given them money as well.

But gay rights groups like the Human Rights Campaign pretended not to notice and as the AP reported, tried to use the protests and boycotts to extort money from Target, promising to call them off if Target gave them $150,000 to match what they gave MN Forward. Target wasn't the only corporation they were trying to hit up either:

The group is also demanding donation from electronics retailer Best Buy Co., which gave $100,000 to the same group backing Emmer.

So the only way to satisfy the protesters would be to pay them off or pony up an equal amount of money for pro-gay candidates - candidates that companies feels specifically work against their business interests.

Target CEO Gregg Steinhafe even released a statement identifying Target's voluntary support for gay rights and that it gave to MN Forward to support the bottom line. It should never have needed to explain this - it was transparently obvious from the get-go. I suspect that progressives aren't as dense as they're letting on and are just pretending to not understand this simple concept.

The left seems to be saying that we should all be single-issue voters on gay rights issues, and there is no justification for supporting any candidate who works against it. They are usually better at remembering that a corporation's goal is to make money and increase profits - they usually complain about that idea, but in this case they seem to have forgotten and instead believe the Target corporation is willing to sink valuable money on a social issue that will not benefit the bottom line.

The protesters have treated this issue superficially. They've never even scratched the surface or made any effort to understand this issue. Shame on gay rights groups for their political opportunism here and attempts to extort money.


  1. Ideally, corporations would avoid this mess by not funneling money into politics period. What kind of democracy allows itself to be sold to the highest bidder? Individual consciences are no match for the political bribery employed by corporations and PACs funded by millionaires and billionaires. By giving money to a gubernatorial candidate, Target has steered the course of that election to an unjust degree, if democracy is to mean anything at all...And due solely to Target's (as with any other corporation) insatiable desire for ever-increasing profits, they will too help decide public policy to the detriment of each citizen. These circumstances unfair and unfit for a civilized nation.

  2. Andrew, I would much rather live in that world - a world where government doesn't intervene in the market, so corporations have nothing to gain from lobbying and nothing to fear from neglecting to lobby.

    1. Michael, government creates markets. Markets are only possible because government creates and maintains currency; ensures peace and safety through police, fire and military forces; develops infrastructure (railroads, highways, electrical power grid, streets, water systems, internet); charters corporations; upholds property rights through the legal system; performs basic scientific research; and upholds competition by breaking monopolies.

      There is no such thing as markets free from government interference. There are, however, government-enforced markets of exchange. Which is our current political-economic system.

      That's why corporations will always have something to gain from lobbying. Always.

    2. You have some truth here, but it surrounded by so much crap its hard to see any of it. Currency is not required for markets, it just makes it easier and there is no reason, and plenty of examples, of currency produced by those other than the government.

      You don't even have to go that far back in history to find organized private money. Great examples being found in early england, where local barons, not the crown, minted currency.

      You are blinded by the fact that governments all over the world have created monopolies for themselves in the production use and maintenance of currency. Even so, there are untold numbers of pages that govern the taxes to be paid on "in kind" exchanges. I have a duck and I trade you for a chicken, we both owe taxes, though the government had less then nothing to do with the exchange.

  3. The left is anti-corporate? I think you've confused your hard-on for a profits-at-all-costs ideology with what people are actually saying.

    None of this is about Target promoting its bottom-line so it can create all those awesome $8 an hour jobs (which it won't create unless consumers - ya know, that shrinking middle class Republicans keep hurting - starts spending). This is about Target giving its money to a bigot. It's cute that it did so through yet another coy organization that is in place to skirt the spirit of the law, but we all know who they wanted to have that money.

    And if you're going to link back to my page, at least 1) link to something I said, and 2) actually bother to read what I wrote. I said Target is making a bad political move. I am right. That's it. Nothing more, nothing less. Don't make up a strawman because your people-hurting, immature libertarian* ideology is in conflict with the consequences Target gets for its actions.

    *I don't mean your libertarianism is immature. I mean to say all libertarianism is immature.

  4. There is a good deal of anger and prejudice in your post, M. Hawkins. I thought the left was against that?
    Supporting ANY politician will put SOMEONE off. I think M. Hartwell's point was that we should keep business and politics as separate as possible to avoid such situations.
    If that wasn't your point, please excuse my misinterpretation.

  5. Michael, your post started by saying:

    "Target donated money to a group that then supported a bigoted candidate for governor in Minnesota this past election cycle. (The guy lost.) This caused problems with non-bigots, especially the ones who are being actively denied rights."

    You declared right from the start that anyone who's not a bigot should have a problem with this. You don't get to say that your post is silent on this issue. I agree that your focus was on the potential backlash Target will get, but you still made the point I was looking for.

    Abner, I am not saying we should try to keep business and politics separate, I'm saying that most businesses already do that that its wrong to label Target as having an anti-gay stance.

  6. When did I say "should"? The last time I checked, I was summarizing events. That's what we in the biz like to call descriptive - not normative. Given how many times I've ranted and raved about how people just don't understand this basic distinction, I would think you might recognize that I wasn't suddenly failing to grasp it myself.

    So, no, I did not make the point you wanted.

  7. Very well then, you are right, "should have" is not the right word and I was on the verge of deleting the reply and posting a new one with the word "had."

    You declared descriptively that everyone who doesn't hate gays had a problem with this - that is not true. You gave no indication of any normative conflict. I went into detail to explain normatively why they shouldn't.

  8. Hartwell, you said:
    "Andrew, I would much rather live in that world - a world where government doesn't intervene in the market, so corporations have nothing to gain from lobbying and nothing to fear from neglecting to lobby."
    Doesn't this mean that you'd like to keep politics and business separate?

  9. No, still wrong. I saw Target's donation caused problems with non-bigots. That was still being descriptive, and it did not include everyone. The whole point of my post was that Target is making a tactical error with what they're doing.

  10. Abner, yes. I am referring to corporatism, where businessmen rewrite laws to benefit themselves and hurt the competition.