Target, Best Buy Angers Gay Customers By Making Contribution to GOP Candidate

Target gave 150K to a group supporting a GOP candidate who opposes gay marriage.

ByABC News
July 28, 2010, 1:28 PM

July 28, 2010 — -- When Randi Reitan heard about Target's $150,000 donation to a Minnesota-based political group backing a gubernatorial candidate with penchant for opposing gay rights, she marched straight into the popular superstore and cut up her store credit card.

"I had to speak up and so I decided to go to my Target, talk to the store manager and tell him that I just couldn't shop there anymore," said Reitan. "Then I cut up my Target Visa card."

Reitan, who says she has dedicated her life to gay rights after her son Jacob came out 10 years ago, isn't the only one upset by the discount department store's move.

Gay rights activists and loyal Target shoppers are furious with the company after it contributed $150,000 to MN Forward , a political group that has endorsed and is paying for ads for the Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer.

Emmer, who will face the winner of the Democratic gubernatorial primary and an independent candidate in the general election this November, is against gay marriage.

On Emmer's website he defines marriage as a "union between one man and one woman" and he has come under fire for his $250 contribution to a Christian rockband that has been known to speak harshly of gays.

Emmer told the Minnesota Star Tribune that the controversial rock band "You Can Run But You Cannot Hide," were "nice people," following band member Bradlee Dean's reported comments that Muslim countries that support execution of gays are "more moral than even the American Christians."

"These are nice people. Are we going to agree on everything? No," Emmer said of the band. "I really appreciate their passion and — you know what — I respect their point of view."

Large corporations have only recently been legally allowed to contribute to campaign advertising, after the Supreme Court in January reversed a century of campaign finance reform that had limited the money that could be spent by private companies and unions.

According to MN Forward Executive Director Brian McClung, Emmer was chosen by the group because of his position on job growth and the state's economy. It is the same reason that the group has been garnering contributions from corporations like Target and electronics giant Best Buy , which gave $100,000.

Target's CEO Gregg Steinhafel was not made available to ABC News for an interview, but in an e-mail to staffers he defended the company's decision to contribute to MN Forward.

"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," wrote Steinhafel. "It is also important to note that we rarely endorse all advocated positions of organizations or candidates we support, and we do not have a political or social agenda."

Steinhafel also reiterated the company's dedication to equal rights.

"Let me be very clear, Target's support for the GLBT community is unwavering, and inclusiveness remains a core value of our company," added Steinhafel, who listed a number of ways the company supports diversity. These measures include providing domestic partner benefits and the sponsorship of Twin Cities Pride, a nonprofit that plans the state's annual Gay-Lesbian-Bisexual-Transgender Pride Celebration.

A representative from Best Buy also released a statement saying that it supports MN Forward because the group makes "jobs and economic issues a top priority this election." Like Target, Best Buy does not claim to agree with all issues a particular candidate promotes.