Target Faces More Heat Over Political Donation

Published on
by
the St. Paul Pioneer Press (Minnesota)

Target Faces More Heat Over Political Donation

by
Tom Webb

Jacob Reitan, left, and his parents, Randi and Philip Reitan, spoke to Target's Alexis Kanton, far right, and Brad Wanger, Minneapolis, August 6, 2010, in the lobby entrance to Target. (Below his hands are a box of 240,000 signed petitions of people boycotting Target over it's $150,000 contribution. (Pioneer Press/Jean Pieri)

Randi Reitan planned to
spend Friday caring for her grandchildren. But something came up: She
had to lead a protest against Target Corp.

Reitan, of Eden Prairie, has become the public face in a growing
controversy over a $150,000 Target political contribution. When she
heard Target's money helped Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom
Emmer, who has an anti-gay-rights record, 'I was just shocked,' she
said. 'The Target I knew was the Target that embraced its gay
employees.'

She began telephoning Target executives, only to be told to stop
calling. So she made a protest video of her cutting up her Target credit
card and vowing, "I'm going to boycott Target until they make this
right." Posted on YouTube, the video has been viewed about 255,000
times.

On Friday, Reitan was outside Target headquarters in downtown
Minneapolis, along with her husband, Philip, their gay son, Jacob, and a
3-foot-high stack of boxes.

"I am boycotting Target, and I have with me signatures of over 240,000 people gathered by MoveOn.org who are joining me in that boycott," Reitan told the assembled TV cameras and a small crowd.

Once inside, the protest turned more presentation than
confrontation. Reitan was met in the lobby by two Target officials - but
not by the man they hoped to see, Gregg Steinhafel, Target's chief
executive.

Instead, Target sent a gay employee and a lesbian employee to meet the protesters: Brad Wagner, a Target diversity

consultant, and Alexis
Kanter, one of the co-chairs of Target's gay and lesbian business
council. The two Target officials chatted quietly with the Reitans,
accepted the petitions, answered a few questions and returned upstairs.

"I had really hoped that Target would invite us up to visit with some
of the executives," Reitan said afterward. "They have consumers who are
very, very angry, and if I was a CEO, I would want to mend those
feelings. Today they could have done that."

While Randi Reitan, 59, has strong feelings on this matter, it's
clear many others do, too. Boycott critics are filling Internet message
boards with hundreds of opposing views. A small sample from YouTube's
message board:

  • "Really? Boycotting Target because of an opinion? Seriously? Does this seem even a little bit weird to anyone else?"
  • "Enjoy Wal-Mart. They are just a great company to support. NOT."
  • "Hooray for Target!! I wish (Republican Tom) Emmer was
    my candidate! If he was, I would vote for him in a heartbeat! Now that I
    know Target has good values, I'll support them more than ever."
  • "How come unions are allowed to do whatever they want
    with their money (whether their members like it or not) without any
    public scorn, yet people get all upset when a corporation does it."
  • "Target is great. Companies are allowed to donate to candidates of their choice. This is a free country."

    For Target Corp., it leaves them precisely where they don't wish to
    be - directly between two angry groups and drawing scorn from both.

    On Thursday, Steinhafel issued an apology, saying in a letter to
    employees he was "genuinely sorry" for the hard feelings the donation
    had caused.

    He said the money was meant to strengthen pro-business policies,
    but some employees and customers felt it betrayed Target's longstanding
    commitment to gay and lesbian equality.

    On Friday, Target officials again were hoping to quell the ill will. At the protest, Wagner was asked if Target would try to make amends for the donation. "We're working on that," Wagner said.

    Is Target going to stop making corporate donations? "We're under a review right now," Wagner said.

    A few dozen supporters, some wearing "Expect More, Shop Less" T-shirts, joined the Reitans, chanting "Stop buying elections."

    One irate counterprotester came near the group and shouted, "So
    you take $4 million from progressives and you're not buying elections?
    Hypocrites!"

    Reitan plans to keep up the fight on behalf of gay people such as her son.

    She understands that Target may seem like an odd choice for a
    boycott, given its gay-friendly policies and diverse work force. But she
    believes the discount chain needs to set things right before moving on.

    Plus, "It still bothers me that the Target executive offices did not want to hear from me," she said.

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