Shareholders weigh in on Target and Best Buy’s political giving
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By Rachel Rose Hartman
Target and its corporate retail cousin Best Buy are continuing to suffer fallout from donations to a Minnesota group that backed a gay-marriage opponent for governor. On top of organized consumer boycotts and public pressure campaigns, some of the retail giant's investors are up in arms, according to the Associated Press.
The anti-Target effort among consumer activists, meanwhile, continues to draw a strong online following, with petitions and viral videos — even though one cable network has rejected a national ad buy from liberal group MoveOn.org urging a Target boycott. MoveOn's political action committee has, however, placed a video of an impromptu musical protest at one Target store on YouTube, where it has already garnered more than half a million views.
You can watch the video here:
Target Ain't People — MoveOn ad @ Yahoo! Video hXXp://video.yahoo.com/watch/8113986/21506105
These high-profile pushbacks have caught the attention of a trio of institutional shareholders in Target and Best Buy — Walden Asset Management, Trillium Asset Management Corp., and Calvert Asset Management Co. — who each filed resolutions voicing concern.
"A good corporate political contribution policy should prevent the kind of debacle Target and Best Buy walked into," Trillium vice president Shelley Alpern told the AP. "We expect companies to evaluate candidates based upon the range of their positions — not simply one area — and assess whether they are in alignment with their core values. But these companies' policies are clearly lacking that."
The three shareholders together control less than 1 percent of outstanding shares for Target and Best Buy. But as the controversy continues to build, their recommendations will probably keep the pressure on Target executives to renounce the donations. Target is the principal focus of the protests because the store is a better-known retail brand — and because it has long adopted an image of social concern, with programs supporting local schools and environmental initiatives, and domestic-partner benefits for store employees. By developing a more hip and urban following, the Minnesota-based chain has ironically left itself more open to campaigns like the present one, which accuses Target of corporate hypocrisy.
MoveOn also produced a national ad promoting the Target boycott — but officials with the cable network MSNBC turned the spot down, claiming that it violated a network policy banning ads that target individual businesses. As the AP reports, MSNBC would likely face its own backlash from advertisers if it appeared to side with MoveOn in this fight — even though the network has a stable of prime-time liberal commentators who support gay-marriage rights.