Yeah, I saw this coming. Corporations are opening up their bank accounts for politicians now that the Supreme Court Citizens United decision makes it easier. Check out this AP story first. (We can’t reprint portions of content from the AP, but it’s a good overview.)
Now, The Huffington Post takes a look at how thorny an issue it is.
A campaign contribution to a well-known anti-gay politician in Minnesota has become a rather large public relations nightmare for Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel–and the store now faces boycotts and backlash from the gay community.
Target’s Chief Executive Steinhafel said gay employees have been concerned about the money helping state Rep. Tom Emmer, who opposes gay marriage. Target gave $150,000 to MN Forward, a group staffed by former insiders from outgoing Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s administration. MN Forward is running TV ads supporting Emmer.
The Associated Press reports that Emmer is a fiery conservative who lauds Arizona’s strict approach to illegal immigration, once advocated chemical castration for sex offenders and wants to lower taxes. His profile contrasts with Target’s moderate image in Minnesota, where the company is known for donating to public school programs, food pantries and the annual Twin Cities Gay Pride Festival.
Keep in mind that for individuals in Minnesota, the maximum contribution is $2,000.
The politician in question advocates policies that, supposedly, would advance Target’s business interests unrelated to his views that affect the LGBT community. (Again, see the AP story).
But here’s the bigger point: When companies like Target choose political sides, obviously, some consumers won’t like it. But I doubt there’s enough public outcry to make the company change its support of candidates. We’re going to see more of this type of spending because of the Citizens United decision. Lots more.
I’ll say it again: The right politicians can protect a company’s bottom line–and its brand–more than marketing can. And if more corporate money ends up in the hands of politically-oriented ad firms, more general market ad firms will want some of that action as well.