2014 Holiday Gift Guide online special: The couch potato’s heavenly remote

HarmonyUltimateHome_Group1_300_dpiForget the TV remote. Your couch potato needs the Logitech Harmony Ultimate Home universal remote that works with more than 270,000 connected devices to make your home “smarter” than ever. And you can use the Harmony Mobile App to create customized activities that group device commands to initiate at the same time. For instance, create the Good Morning or Welcome Home activity that can activate lighting, locks, the thermostat and entertainment devices to all work together. Now if you can just get it to fry your eggs over easy and make your coffee, you’re all set.

$349.99. Available at all Best Buy locations.

—  Tammye Nash

HRC releases list of best places to work

The Human Rights Campaign released a new list this week of the Best Places to Work for LGBT Equality.

The Best Places to Work for LGBT Equality distinction is awarded to businesses that scored 100 percent on HRC Foundation’s 2011 Corporate Equality Index. The list is larger this year than ever, although companies like Target and Best Buy that were on the list last year were removed because of political donations to anti-LGBT organizations.

The list includes a several DFW-based companies including American Airlines, Brinker International, JC Penney and Texas Instruments.

The list includes more obvious categories in service sectors like airlines, retail and hospitality but also includes several industries not seen as being in the forefront of equal rights. Waste Management Inc. of Houston is among those rated as a best place to work, as is mining and metals company Alcoa.

A new project was launched to get more Houston-based Fortune 500 companies to participate in the CEI Index. Only nine of 29 Houston-based Fortune 500 companies participate.

—  David Taffet

Emmer concedes; Target doesn’t

Target Retail StoreRepublican Tom Emmer finally conceded defeat to Democrat Mark Dayton in the Minnesota governor’s race. Although behind by 9,000 votes, the homophobic Emmer still thought he should have won.

The race gained national attention when Target and Best Buy made substantial donations to a PAC that supported Emmer. Although they claimed they supported Emmer for his position on lower taxes, LGBT groups jumped on the candidate’s extreme anti-gay views. He called one person who called for death to gays “a nice guy,” for example.

Target has refused to budge on its position, however. The Human Rights Campaign spoke to representatives of the company over the summer to encourage them to make equal donations to LGBT groups. Negotiations broke down and the company has not responded or supported LGBT groups in any significant way since then.

HRC’s rating of Target in the Corporate Equality Index was lowered from 100 percent to 85 percent in the latest listing.

—  David Taffet

HRC still calling on Target to ‘Make it right’

Target Retail StoreA reader wrote to me last week and said that he and his boyfriend are continuing to boycott Target, and he requested an update.

I contacted Paul Guequierre, a spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, who said the organization is still calling on Target to “Make it right.”

At issue was Target’s $150,000 donation to MN Forward, a political action committee supporting the candidacy of anti-gay Minnesota gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer.

Guequierre said HRC has staff in Minnesota working for the Mark Dayton campaign. Dayton is the Democrat opposing Emmer, a Republican.

“Minnesota could be the next state to have marriage equality,” Guequierre said.

But he said that will only happen with Dayton as governor. Currently, Dayton is ahead in the polls.

Target’s parent company was originally called Dayton-Hudson and candidate Dayton, whom Target opposes, comes from the store’s founding family.

Guequierre said if Dayton wins, “Target will have to ask themselves if it was worth it. Their reputation within the community has changed.”

Personally, since being asked to leave a local Target for asking questions while trying to cover this story, I’ve stayed away and am unlikely to go back. I don’t shop where the LGBT community is not welcome, but I really avoid stores where I’ve been thrown out. (The offensive question: Has the LGBT boycott of Target affected your store at all?)

Target once received a perfect score of 100 percent in HRC’s Corporate Equality Index. This year, the company had 15 points deducted because of the political contribution and its refusal to make it right.

Best Buy also made a large donation to MN Forward and has not made it right either.

But Guequierre said HRC has never called for a boycott.

“Both companies treat their LGBT employees right,” he said.

So there is no HRC-sanctioned boycott, but many members of the LGBT community have decided to find other places to shop.

—  David Taffet

How is Target’s donation being used

MN Forward is the group to which Target and Best Buy directed a combined total of $250,000. The organization is a political action committee supporting a candidate with pro-business positions.

Here’s the ad they released this week to support pro-business and anti-gay Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer.

In the ad, they refer to Democratic-Farmer-Labor candidate Mark Dayton, claiming he supports taxing e-mail. Dayton is a former Democratic Minnesota senator. While in Congress, he addressed a proposal at the time to levy a tax on e-mail and said he would not support it. His mention of the issue on the floor of the Senate is what MN Forward calls support.

Emmer’s anti-LGBT positions are not addressed in the ad, but that was never MN Forward’s purpose. Their mission, as stated on their website is:

MN Forward is focused on issues related to creating jobs and economic opportunity. That includes tax reform, spending reform, and ensuring our children receive a world-class education.

After being criticized for only supporting Republicans, the PAC steered some money to some Democrats. An example is Rep. Gene Pelowski. On their website they wrote:

Rep. Pelowski broke ranks with his party and voted against a $1 billion tax increase in 2009 and against a veto override attempt on the same bill. That year he had the highest ranking on the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce scorecard of any DFL House member.

So in being non-partisan, they chose Democrats who “broke ranks” with Democrats.

—  David Taffet

To shop or not to shop at Target?

That is the question for LGBTs angry over donations by Target, Best Buy to anti-gay politician

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

Target Retail Store
DECISIONS, DECISIONS | The Target on Central at Haskell is convenient for shoppers in Oak Lawn. But does the company’s donation to an anti-gay politician outweigh the store’s convenience? (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

Although Target and Best Buy have a 100 percent rating in the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index, they were removed last week from HRC’s Buying for Equality guide.

Fred Sainz, HRC vice president of communications and marketing, called the move “unprecedented.”
At issue are donations the companies made to MN Forward, a political action committee supporting anti-gay Minnesota Republican candidate for governor Tom Emmer.

Target donated $150,000 and Best Buy contributed $100,000 to the PAC.

Emmer supports a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. He is affiliated with the Christian rock band You Can Run But You Cannot Hide, which has advocated violence against LGBT people.

Gays “play the victim when they are, in fact, the predator. On average, they molest 117 people before they’re found out,” the band’s front man, Bradlee Dean, has said.

“These are nice people,” Emmer said of Dean, who has also said that Muslims are upholding the laws of God by calling for the execution of gays.

Sainz said the corporate index measures a company’s workplace practices as they relate to their employees. Most of the score is based on certain fixed criteria such as offering domestic partner insurance and having nondiscrimination policies in place that cover sexual orientation and gender identity.

Sainz said that up to 15 points can be added for outreach and marketing to the LGBT community. The same number of points may be deducted for contributing to organizations that fight equality or to discriminatory ballot measures.

“Target and Best Buy got 100 percent and deserved the score at the time,” he said. “It’s just a snapshot in time.”

Buying for Equality is made up of companies listed in the CEI that consumers would use. While Lockheed Martin received a 100 percent rating, few people reading the buyers’ guide shop for aircraft engines, Sainz said.

The guide “sends the message to support these companies,” Sainz said.

Target bookends Oak Lawn with one store at Central Expressway and Haskell Avenue and another on Marsh Lane at Northwest Highway, just past Love Field.

Best Buy has an active LGBT employees group in the Dallas area. A local representative of the group said any statement on the issue should come from corporate headquarters, but the corporate spokesperson did not return calls.

Target has a gay employee group but none active locally. North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tony Vedda said that those groups are more common at retail companies’ corporate headquarters and distribution centers than in the stores themselves.

Sainz said that consumer anger has been directed more at Target than Best Buy.

“We go to Target once a week,” he said. “We feel personally betrayed.”

He said that Best Buy is where he goes for electronics but shops there much less frequently.

No formal boycott of either store has been organized, but many in the LGBT community as well as allies and others concerned with social justice issues have stayed out of both Target and Best Buy since the donations were made public.

Employees at Target at Cityplace refused to say whether or not their business has been affected and told this reporter to leave the store.

Neither company reports a financial impact, but three investment funds controlling $57.5 million in stock have filed shareholder complaints.

The New York Times ran an editorial highlighting the company’s public relations nightmare.

Target’s CEO apologized for supporting an anti-LGBT candidate and said the company’s support for the community is unwavering. The company is a sponsor of the upcoming Out & Equal convention in Los Angeles and supports a number of Pride events.

David Ethridge is a local activist who believes in standing on principle when deciding where to shop: “LGBT Americans represent almost$800 billion in annual buying power and are a serious consumer force to be recognized and valued,” he said. “We have to vote with our dollars, because that’s the only language that a corporation speaks.”

Liz Cappon said she disagrees with the donations both companies made but is not boycotting.

“I can guarantee that there are tons of other stores that have done or are currently doing the same thing with candidates and PACs but maybe they just aren’t receiving the same attention right now,” she said.

She said some friends of hers have switched to Wal-Mart. That company’s CEI score is 40 percent.
“I would prefer to shop somewhere that treats their gay employees well,” she said.

“Target wants to sell me socks, and I want to buy socks from Target, but first I have to feel good about where my sock money is going,” Ethridge said.

Ethridge said it’s too early to know what long-term impact the reaction to Target’s donation will have.

Sainz held talks with Target that produced no immediate results. He said his talks with Best Buy continue.

“I think there’s a silver lining,” he said. “We, as a community, sent a message to corporations to factor in our issues.”

He said that there’s no way to measure the effect the boycott of Target has had, but thinks companies that care about public reaction will be more careful about their political donations in the future.

…………………………………………

COMPARISON SHOPPING

Thinking of boycotting? How easy would it be to boycott Target or Best Buy and stick to companies with high Equality Index ratings? We took a few products available at these stores and compared. Prices are current this week from the stores’ websites.

• LEVI STRAUSS

Levi’s not only has a 100 percent rating itself, the San Francisco-based company practically invented corporate equality. They were one of the first corporations to extend benefits equally to their LGBT employees and one of the first to market to the community.

Target: $24.99-$27.99

J.C. Penney: $32.99-$49.99

Levi Outlet Store: $19.90-$128 (Not the same styles but the outlet store offered the widest selection.)

Closest Penney store to Oak Lawn: Valley View Mall. Penney is locally based and has a 95 percent rating

Closest Levi Outlet Store: Grapevine Mills. Company-owned with 100 percent rating.

Jeans alternatives: Gap, Old Navy, Banana Republic. 100 percent rating. Closest stores to Oak Lawn: Banana Republic in West Village. Gap in NorthPark. Old Navy in Galleria. Only carry their own store brands.

• “GLEE” DVD

The first season of “Glee” (available Sept. 14)

“Glee” aired on Fox, owned by News Corp: unrated.

Target: $38.99

Best Buy: $37.99

Borders: $40.59 (Borders is at West Village and has a 100 percent rating)

Alternative: rent it at gay-owned TapeLenders

• CREST TOOTHPASTE, 4.2 oz. size

Crest is manufactured by Procter & Gamble, which has a 100 percent rating.

Target: $2.49

Kroger: $2.50 (Kroger has a 75 percent rating  and has a store on Cedar Springs.)

• FRISKIES, 5.5 oz. can

Manufactured by Purina, which has a 75 percent rating.

Target: 40 cents/can

Walgreens: 50 cents/can (Walgreens has stores in Oak Lawn, Oak Cliff and throughout the city and has a 100 percent rating.)

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 27, 2010

—  Kevin Thomas

Groups challenging law that revealed donations by Target, Best Buy to anti-gay candidate

MARTIGA LOHN  |  Associated Press

ST. PAUL, Minn. — The future of a new Minnesota law that let the public know about polarizing political donations from Target Corp., Best Buy Co. and other companies rests with a federal judge who will decide whether to suspend the disclosure requirement on free speech grounds.

U.S. District Judge Donovan Frank said Friday, Aug. 20 he will rule within a month on a request for a temporary injunction to suspend the law, which could free corporations and other independent groups to spend on this year’s election without revealing their identities. Abortion opponents Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, the anti-tax Taxpayers League of Minnesota and a travel agency brought the lawsuit last month.

Their attorney, Joe La Rue of Terre Haute, Ind., said Minnesota’s disclosure requirements for independent spending are so onerous that they amount to an unconstitutional ban on free speech. Under a law that took effect June 1, Minnesota makes corporations and other independent political groups register with state campaign finance regulators. They’re also required to file public reports naming their donors and itemizing their expenditures five times this year.

“These are the burdens that the Supreme Court said you cannot put on people who want to exercise their free speech rights,” La Rue said during a three-hour hearing.

State Solicitor General Alan Gilbert said the law doesn’t block corporations and independent groups from spending unlimited amounts, as long as they disclose their spending. He said the public debate over Target’s donation shows that the law works.

Under the new law, a business-oriented political fund called MN Forward collected more than $1 million since June, including $150,000 from Target. When MN Forward disclosed its donors as required twice last month, Target became the focus of a national backlash from liberals and gay rights supporters because of MN Forward’s support for Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer, a vocal gay marriage opponent.

“The public has a compelling interest in information regarding sources of political spending so they can make informed decisions in the political marketplace,” Gilbert said.

The Legislature unanimously passed the disclosure law after a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling allowed corporations to spend company funds directly on elections, wiping away prohibitions on corporate campaign spending in Minnesota and about half the states. The statute applies to independent expenditures, or those made without a candidate’s input or knowledge.

In Target’s case, the company wasn’t required to disclose the donation, but MN Forward was. But the new law allows companies themselves to spend on campaigns if they register and follow the disclosure requirements.

La Rue said the law requires corporations to account separately for such political spending, violating their right to spend general corporate funds on elections.

Frank interrupted the attorneys frequently with technical questions, at one point asking both sides whether a temporary injunction would mean the end of disclosure for this election cycle.

Assistant Hennepin County Attorney Dan Rogan said lifting the law could lead to a flood of corporate money into the election in October, without voters knowing who was behind the messages. Minnesotans will elect a new governor and the entire Legislature in November.

If the law is struck down, the earliest that the Legislature could replace it would be next year.

—  John Wright

Shareholders urge Target, Best Buy to increase oversight of campaign contributions

MARTIGA LOHN  |  Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS — A few Target Corp. and Best Buy Co. institutional shareholders weighed in Thursday, Aug. 19 on the flap over the companies’ political donations in Minnesota, urging the boards of both retailers to increase their oversight of campaign contributions.

Walden Asset Management and Trillium Asset Management Corp., both of Boston, and Bethesda, Md.-based Calvert Asset Management Co. filed shareholder resolutions with both companies. Together, the three firms control less than 1 percent of each company’s outstanding shares — 1.1 million Target shares worth $57.5 million and 344,000 Best Buy shares worth $11.3 million — but they are moving the debate over the political giving to a new arena.

Target gave $150,000 and Best Buy $100,000 to a business-focused political fund helping a conservative Republican gubernatorial candidate in Minnesota, triggering a national backlash from gay rights groups and liberals. The companies made the donations after a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling freed them to spend corporate funds on elections. The candidate, state legislator Tom Emmer, opposes gay marriage and other rights for same-sex couples.

“A good corporate political contribution policy should prevent the kind of debacle Target and Best Buy walked into,” said Trillium vice president Shelley Alpern. “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 shareholders said the donations don’t mesh with corporate values that include workplace protections for gay employees and risk harming the companies’ brands. Walden senior vice president Tim Smith said such giving can have “a major negative impact on company reputations and business.”

The Target resolution urges the board to review the effect of future political contributions on the company’s public image, sales and profitability and to consider the cost of backing a candidate whose politics conflict with the company’s public stances.

Spokeswoman Amy Reilly said Minneapolis-based Target had nothing to add to previous statements on the matter, including an apology from Chief Executive Officer Gregg Steinhafel.

A spokeswoman for Richfield, Minn.-based Best Buy didn’t immediately respond to a message.

The three investment companies together submitted the resolution to Target, while Calvert and Trillium filed the Best Buy shareholder proposal. One of Trillium’s clients, the Portland, Ore.-based Equity Foundation, divested a small Target holding of 170 shares on Wednesday.

—  John Wright

Target refuses to make nice with the gays

Expect to see more protests like the one above in West Hollywood.

Just hours after we posted this story from the Associated Press about conservatives pressuring Target not to make a donation in support of LGBT equality, the Human Rights Campaign announced Monday afternoon that the company has decided it will take “no corrective actions to repair the harm that it caused by contributing $150,000 to an organization supporting a vehemently anti-gay candidate closely associated with a Christian rock band that advocates death and violence to gay people.”

In a press release, HRC said the company’s decision came after two weeks of discussions and two tentative agreements.

“All fair-minded Americans will now rightly question Target’s commitment to equality. If their initial contribution was a slap in the face, their refusal to make it right is a punch in the gut and that’s not something that we will soon forget,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese. “However, with full marriage equality hanging in the balance in Minnesota, regardless of Target, it’s important that we as a community send a message that we will work tirelessly to elect pro-equality candidates.”

HRC goes on to say that it will devote $150,000 of its own resources to help elect pro-equality candidates in Minnesota. HRC is still awaiting a response from Best Buy, which also contributed money to MN Forward, the group supporting anti-gay Republican Tim Emmer in the governor’s race.

“Target and Best Buy have — and no doubt will continue to have — model employment policies for LGBT people. We will continue to support those efforts. But before they can regain that exalted status among their consumers, they need to make things right in Minnesota,” said Solmonese. “The nation’s LGBT community has shown these two companies enormous customer loyalty. Now it’s time for that faithfulness to be returned.”

Going back to the AP story, it sounds like Target was ultimately more faithful to the almighty dollar:

Conservatives are watching to see whether Target bends to the pressure, said Kelly O’Keefe, a brand expert at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Va.

“They’re likely to raise the ire of a different constituency of customers and get themselves in a never-ending cycle of alienating people,” he said. “A better thing is for them to swear off any future investment in elections.”

The full HRC press release is after the jump.

UPDATE: For your further viewing pleasure, check out this inspiring in-store flash mob protest:

—  John Wright

Query • 08.06.10

Are you boycotting Target?

………………………………………..

Jason Tarin — “I’m a little torn because companies do things like this all the time. I love Target, but I’m holding off shopping there to see how they handle this.”

Mandy Love — “Absolutely.”

Cindy Noble Cole — “Yes I am … and so is my daughter.”

Terry Don — “We need to look at the total picture and not this single incident.”

Rachel Dee Thomas — “Target and Best Buy must be heartless.”

Liz Cappon — “No, if I boycotted every retail outlet that donated to political causes I don’t agree with, I would have nowhere to shop.”

James Floyd Overstreet — “Fortunately I live in a country where we don’t have Target, but when I visit the U.S.A. in September, I’ll do my shopping somewhereelse. I never was a big Target fan anyway.”

………………………………………..

Have a suggestion for a question you’d like us to ask?
E-mail it to nash@dallasvoice.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 6, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas