HRC: Target Donation Won’t Impact Corporate Equality Index Ranking

by July 27, 2010

The logo used by several Facebook groups opposing Target's donation supporting State Rep. Tom Emmer's campaign for governor

The nation’s premier LGBT lobbying organization has weighed in on the Target controversy, saying they’re “disappointed” in the discount retailer. However, they’re leaving their biggest tools at home when it comes to compelling some form of compensation or an apology from the company.

In a statement responding to Target Corporation’s $150,000 donation to anti-gay gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer, the Human Rights Campaign told TheColu.mn that the donation would not impact the company’s high ranking in their well-known Corporate Equality Index, which measures participating corporations’ LGBT-inclusiveness. Target has enjoyed a 100% score on the CEI since 2009, and a high score for several years.

In promotional materials for the 2010 CEI, HRC President Joe Solmonese touted the report as a way to fight employment discrimination, and the criteria for next year’s CEI require corporations to not engage in “activity that would undermine LGBT equality.”

The HRC’s Deputy Press Secretary, Paul Guequierre explained it this way in an email to TheColu.mn: “While political contributions to support candidates are not a factor in HRC Foundation’s Corporate Equality Index, HRC finds it puzzling that Target would take great steps to support LGBT inclusiveness while simultaneously helping a candidate who shamelessly rejects equality for LGBT Minnesotans.”

Until this year’s landmark Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission Supreme Court decision, Minnesota and 24 other states had laws banning corporate donations to political campaigns. The court decision, according to Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board Executive Director Gary Goldsmith, was what allowed Target to overtly donate to Emmer’s campaign.

So far, Guequierre said, the HRC has no plans right now to modify CEI criteria to account for these new possibilities for corporation’s anti-LGBT activities, but he left the door open for changes in the future.

“Now in its ninth year, the CEI’s criteria has evolved,” Guequierre told TheColu.mn in an email. “In 2011, for example, there will be nearly a half-dozen new criteria that will be added for evaluation. Criteria will continue to evolve as we come into new information.”

So far, OutFront Minnesota continues to be the only major LGBT organization to call for specific action from Target Corporation to compensate for the company’s donation to Emmer, who has ties to a Christian youth ministry that not only covertly preaches religion in public schools, but has also advocated for state-supported executions and incarceration of LGBT people. When asked about OutFront’s call for Target rescind its donation or give an equal amount to a charity that fights anti-LGBT discrimination, Guequierre told TheColu.mn that “Targets already donates to a number of worthy causes in Minnesota and around the country. We would hope that they will continue to support these causes at increased levels.”

Twin Cities Pride, a non-profit, 501c3 organization that organizes the yearly Twin Cities Pride festival with substantial financial support from Target, has officially declined to comment. Executive Director Dot Beltsler told TheColu.mn this morning that the organization was worried their tax-exempt status would be threatened if they weighed in on what she characterized as a political campaign.

Belstler said TC Pride has tried to find out how the decision to financially support the Emmer campaign was made. She said she “believe[s] there’s some internal discussion [at Target] about ‘how could this discussion be made without input'” from the company’s LGBT employee organization, which Belstler said includes many hundreds of employees across the company.

While TC Pride’s sponsorship contract with Target expires this year, Belstler told TheColu.mn, the organization has not discussed any reduction in Target’s presence at the festival in response to the donation. She mentioned that every one of the festival’s corporate sponsorships were up for consideration at the end of this year, but that she would prefer to continue TC Pride’s relationship with Target. “[T]hey do help keep the festival free,” Belstler said.

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