Target Revises Policy on Political Donations

Following backlash stemming from a political contribution that the company made last summer, CEO Gregg Steinhafel and a policy committee of senior executives are now together responsible for vetting political donations.

Within six months of making a controversial political donation, Target Corporation has revised its policy about such contributions.

According to a “civic activity” page on the Minneapolis-based retailer's Web site, CEO Gregg Steinhafel and a policy committee consisting of senior executives are now together responsible for vetting and making decisions about political donations. The group's activities are reviewed twice annually by the corporate responsibility committee that's governed by Target's board of directors.

The Web page indicates that Target may provide financial support to political candidates, political parties, or ballot initiatives through two channels-the use of general corporate funds (where permitted by law) and TargetCitizens PAC, which is funded through voluntary contributions made by eligible employees.

“Regardless of which channel for political contributions is used, our financial support is provided in a nonpartisan manner based strictly on issues that directly affect our business priorities,” Target said on the Web page.

Target said that several factors weigh in when it comes to deciding on PAC (political action committee) contributions: alignment with business objectives, extent of Target's presence in a candidate's state or Congressional district, relevant legislative committee assignments, leadership positions, political balance, and the interests of the company's customers, employees, shareholders, and other stakeholders.

Target faced significant backlash from both employees and the GLBT community after it gave $150,000 in August to MN Forward, an organization that backed Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer, who opposes gay marriage.

Three investment firms that hold a stake in the retail giant-Boston-based Walden Asset Management, Boston-based Trillium Asset Management, and Bethesda, Maryland-based Calvert Asset Management Company-also collectively filed a proposal requesting that Target's board undertake a “comprehensive review of the company's political contributions and spending processes, including the criteria used for such contributions.”

Steinhafel initially defended the company's donation to MN Forward but apologized to company employees about a week later.

Steinhafel said at the time that Target would soon begin a “strategic review and analysis of our decision-making process for financial contributions in the public policy arena.”

Target serves customers at 1,750 stores in 49 states nationwide and on its Web site. It is Minnesota's second-largest public company based on revenue, which totaled $65.4 billion for the fiscal year that ended in January 2010.