If Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel wants to give personal campaign donations to the likes of GOP candidate for Governor Tom Emmer and Tea Party Candidate for Bombthrower Michele Bachmann, that's his right. If Target and other Minnesota corporations want to give money out of the corporate coffers to benefit such candidates, that's also now their right.
But as a shareholder, I'm interested in hearing how the supported front groups like MN Forward will advance Target's (and other Minnesota corporation) business interests. Steinhafel's response has focused so far on Emmer's social policy views, which he implies are at odds with Target's values.
As you know, Target has a history of supporting organizations and candidates, on both sides of the aisle, who seek to advance policies aligned with our business objectives, such as job creation and economic growth.
Steinhafel says "We rarely endorse all advocated positions of the organizations or candidates we support," which is fair, but he also disclaims a political or social agenda — leaving open the question of what the agenda is that gets $150,000 in corporate cash and in-kind contributions.
Since the CEO is silent on that, I checked MN Forward to see what it says about its agenda. Basically, its entire website is a donation page, without any detail about specific policies it stands for:
MN Forward is a new organization established to ensure that private-sector job creation and economic growth are at the top of the agenda during the 2010 campaign. We are working with a broad coalition of Minnesota job creators to elect candidates from both parties who support policies that enhance job growth in Minnesota.
Okay, no there there.
Let's look at the jobs agenda of Tom Emmer, the candidate so far benefiting from MN Forward's advocacy. He waxes about the good old days when Honeywell and other large companies were the state's big employers. Back in 2008, when Marty Seifert was shopping this story around, I explained why this was not such a scary development. It's still the case.
Today, an expansive and expensive state government has crippled our business environments and lost our greatest resource – our people. The state’s largest employers are now the State of Minnesota, our public university systems, and the federal government.
Higher taxes and more government spending do not lead to a better economic climate. Proposals to raise taxes and fees or eliminate tax incentives for businesses are not restoring our competitive advantage for business development. A reputation as the highest taxed state in the nation will not encourage economic growth but only drive it away.
Our state’s future relies on a blueprint for economic development built on private initiative and the entrepreneurial spirit. Strengthening our economy through business retention, relocation, and development in the private sector must be our priority. We must help create jobs by supporting tax incentives, streamlining permitting, and reducing mandates.
State government has "lost our people" and "proposals" have not fixed a bad national economy. The blueprint for creating jobs involves tax incentives for business and relaxing oversight and mandates (such as minimum wage regulations?).
Hardly the kind of business case that would earn internal funding from a Target CEO, so maybe there's more meat somewhere. [UPDATE: A Bluestem Prairie has some. ] Instead, all we have to go by are Emmer's more clearly articulated positions.
But that's asking for a lot from a candidate who misses the fact that the same Minnesota business climate he decries supported the phenomenal growth of his two biggest back-door funders — Target and Best Buy.