Gay rights group: Target won’t offer olive branch

STEVE KARNOWSKI  |  Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS — Target Corp. has decided against giving money to gay-friendly causes to quiet the uproar over a $150,000 donation that helped support a Minnesota governor candidate who opposes gay marriage, a national gay rights group said Monday, Aug. 16.

In response, the Human Rights Campaign said it will contribute the same amount of its own money to political candidates in Minnesota who support gay marriage, including Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mark Dayton.

A Target spokeswoman did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment. Target has been under pressure for three weeks for contributing $150,000 to MN Forward, a group that has run ads supporting Republican Minnesota gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer.

Fred Sainz, an HRC spokesman, said Target and his group had reached two tentative agreements over the last couple weeks for the discount retail giant to give money to various
gay-lesbian-bisexual-transgender causes in Minnesota.

“Then when we were ready to pull the trigger, literally at the 11th hour on two occasions, they pulled back and said they were not ready to proceed,” Sainz said. “They said no deal. They said it was over.”

Target didn’t say why, he said.

“They were very diplomatic. They simply said they were going to take no corrective action,” he said.

Minneapolis-based Target has cultivated a good relationship with the gay community and its image as an inclusive employer. The company has been a sponsor of the annual Twin Cities Gay Pride Festival. On Aug. 5, CEO Gregg Steinhafel wrote employees to say he was sorry for the hurt feelings over the donation, which he said was motivated by Emmer’s stance on business issues, not social issues.

Liberal groups reacted to news of Target’s donation angrily. Their calls for a boycott and several scattered protests outside Target stores highlighted the risks companies face if they take advantage of their new freedom under a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allows them to spend company funds directly on political campaigns.

A Boycott Target page on Facebook had over 62,000 fans as of Monday. But conservatives also threatened a backlash from the right, and an anti-boycott page on Facebook had over 17,500 fans as of Monday.

Sainz said the HRC has not decided how it will allocate the $150,000 it plans to spend on Minnesota campaigns.

“But at the top of our agenda is the next governor of Minnesota will hopefully be in a position to sign a quality-of-marriage bill,” Sainz said. “Obviously, that is a priority for our community and having a Legislature that will pass that bill is equally important.”

—  John Wright

Obama to visit Dallas on Monday for fundraiser

President Barack Obama

On Monday, President Barack Obama will be in Dallas to raise money for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

The Dallas County Democratic Party provided few details on the dinner other to say it will be a $15,000-per-plate affair at the home of attorney Russell Budd.

Budd is a partner in the law firm Baron & Budd. His late law partner Fred Baron was national campaign treasurer for John Edwards in 2008.

Few of this year’s candidates for Congress or statewide office said they plan to attend. Only lieutenant governor nominee Linda Chavez-Thompson expressed interest.

Katy Bacon, spokesperson for the Bill White campaign, said he doesn’t plan to attend.

“He will be in Midland, Abilene and Johnson County that day,” she said.

But she said he’s not avoiding the president.

“He has talked to him by phone from time to time,” she said.

She said that with just 90 days left until the election, White needs to get out and meet as many Texans as possible. She said the campaign is on track and that White out-raised Gov. Rick Perry three reporting periods in a row and currently has $3 million more cash on hand than the incumbent.

“When I heard President Obama would be visiting Dallas the week of August 9th, I immediately thought that he intended to come to my fundraiser on Wednesday, Aug. 11,” joked openly gay Dallas County District Clerk Gary Fitzsimmons. “Regrettably that has turned out not to be the case.”

Fitzsimmons said Texas Democrats have historically been very generous donors to congressional campaigns around the country and that the president is doing everything he can to ensure Democratic candidates are competitive in the fall.

“It is a shame, however, that the president will not be having a public event in North Texas this time around,” he said. “President Obama is enormously popular here in Dallas County.”

Congressional candidates were not invited to the events. Lainey Melnick, a Democrat running against Republican incumbent Lamar Smith in Austin, said she wanted to attend but was told she would have to pay $30,000 a couple.

Erin Moore, president of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas, said she expected Republicans to have something to say about Obama’s visit. But she said that Dallas is still “blue” and supports him.

“He’s not coming to stump,” she said. “They’re down here raising money and we’re a big ATM. Fifteen thousand dollars a plate is worth a stop in Dallas.”

Moore said White and other top Democrats know Dallas’ big donors already and that attending a fundraising event for the national Senate candidates wouldn’t be a good use of campaign time.

—  David Taffet