(Photo: Andy Birkey)
Last week, Target Corp announced what some are billing as a major change in their corporate giving policies, in an attempt to avoid a repeat of last summer’s public relations fiasco, following their donation of $150,000 to anti-LGBT Republican Tom Emmer’s campaign for Governor. However, at least one LGBT political group is skeptical that the changes will prevent similar anti-LGBT actions by the company.

Target would not comment on specific questions for this story, but spokesperson Jessica Carlson said the policy revisions came out of last year’s widespread protests against the donation.

“During and immediately following the 2010 U.S. election cycle, Target undertook a review of its political giving policies and practices,” Carlson said. “As part of this process, Target has established a Policy Committee consisting of our most senior executives to guide decision-making related to financial support of political activities.”

According to the company’s website, the Policy Committee will consider both “the interests of our guests, team members, shareholders and other stakeholders” along with the company’s “business interests” when deciding if a particular political contribution would be in Target’s best interests.

It’s that specific language that Russel Roybal, of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, said would protect the LGBT community in the future.

“Obviously, they’ve taken seriously the concerns people had” about last summer’s donation, Roybal told TheColu.mn. “This policy is a signal that they recognize that and they value their LGBT employees, and these groups and other resource groups [representing other minority Target employees] will have a seat at the table.”

Dot Betsler of Twin Cities Pride echoed Roybal, saying “this is consistent with the conversations we’ve had with Target. Their LGBT Business Council has a place at the decision-making table now.”

Roybal said that, while Target’s policy changes were the result of internal deliberations at the company, and that the Task Force did not help write them, they did encourage Target to create a policy that would prevent a repeat of last summer.

“You can only create change by engaging in the conversation and being honest,” Roybal said. “We told Target ‘the decision you made we think is wrong, and here’s why, and here’s how you can fix it and use us as a resource and figure out a solution that not only leaves the community in a better place but leaves [Target] in a better place.'”

While TC Pride – which counts Target as a major sponsor – and the Task Force are content to declare victory, others in Minnesota aren’t so sure.

Randi Reitan, a Rochester-area pro-LGBT activist who led a high-profile boycott of Target last summer, isn’t buying Target’s alleged change of heart, she told The Minnesota Independent. For her, it’s still a major problem that Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel, a conservative Christian, is still in charge. Because of this, she said, she will continue her boycott.

Join The Impact, a Minneapolis-based activist group that grew out of anti-Proposition 8 protests in 2008, says they don’t see anything in the new policy that would explicitly prevent another big corporate donation to an anti-LGBT politician. Calling the new policy “an ineffective policy of restraint,” JTI member Phillip Knoll told TheColu.mn’s Andy Birkey that the organization saw a “huge conflict of interest.”

“Giving decisions are going to be made by the same conservative executives who each made the maximum political donations to Tom Emmer and Michele Bachmann from their personal accounts,” Knoll said. “This policy gives no proof that Target will refrain from making further damaging donations.”

At the heart of the problem, Knoll said, is Target’s presence in politics.

“I am reminded of the message given loud and clear by an outspoken marching-band flash-mob in a Target store last year: ‘Target Ain’t People So Why Should They Be Allowed To Play Around With Our Democracy?'” Knoll said. “Fundamentally, a for-profit retailer just isn’t properly equipped to participate in the political arena. They are good at making money, not making policy. And it should stay that way.”

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