MSNBC rejects anti-Target ad from liberal group

Associated Press

ST. PAUL, Minn. — MSNBC rejected a TV ad calling for a boycott of Target Corp. after the retail giant made a political donation in Minnesota, continuing the controversy over corporate involvement in elections.

MSNBC spokeswoman Alana Russo said Thursday, Aug. 19 that the commercial submitted by the liberal advocacy group MoveOn.org violates its advertising policy by attacking an individual business directly. The ad features Target’s bullseye logo and accuses the chain of trying to buy elections.

MoveOn executive director Justin Ruben said the rejection was “the height of hypocrisy” and accused MSNBC and its corporate parent, General Electric Co., of trying to protect Target from consumer anger.

MoveOn spokeswoman Ilyse Hogue said the ad began running Thursday on ABC, CBS and NBC affiliates in the Twin Cities. The affiliates, KSTP, WCCO and KARE, confirmed that the ad was airing.

MoveOn originally planned to spend $35,000 on the ad, including national air time on MSNBC. Hogue said the group hasn’t decided what to do with the money it planned to spend on the MSNBC slots.

Minneapolis-based Target triggered a national backlash by giving $150,000 last month to a business-oriented political fund supporting conservative Minnesota GOP gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer, who opposes gay marriage and other rights for same-sex couples.

Gay rights groups and liberals have protested at Target’s stores and headquarters. The flap showed the risks for businesses that take advantage of new freedom to spend company money directly on political campaigns after a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

—  John Wright

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