Thursday, March 03, 2011

Koch Is It; Target Goes Gaga

The brothers Koch, and their company Koch Industries, have become a recent obsession among liberals and a constant target of demonization. They are the primary recipient of the Alinsky tactic used so often in the past on enemies of the Left:

Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it. Cut off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy. Go after people and not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions.

The larger aim of the attack on the Koch Brothers is to create the impression that there is something wrong with donating money to groups who are in agreement with your beliefs, if those beliefs happen to be libertarian, conservative, or Republican. If that can be successfully done, the lifeblood (money) for the movement will be cut off. All the while, millions can continue pouring in to liberal causes, via rich benefactors, unions, and forced takings from tax payers.

I'm happy to see Charles Koch not buckling to this pressure with a spirited defense in the Wall Street Journal of his economic and political beliefs, and related activities.

For many years, I, my family and our company have contributed to a variety of intellectual and political causes working to solve these problems. Because of our activism, we've been vilified by various groups. Despite this criticism, we're determined to keep contributing and standing up for those politicians, like Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who are taking these challenges seriously.

Unfortunately, not all targeted companies are as steadfast in defending their own interests. An egregious example of business caving in to political pressure occurred during the 2010 election in Minnesota.

Target Corporation donated $150,000 to a group called Minnesota Forward, whose goal was to improve the environment for business in the state. Their focus was entirely economic and directed toward job creation in the private sector, which was perhaps the primary concern of voters in the recession year of 2010. The goals of Minnesota Forward were admirable, entirely reasonable, and beneficial to any business trying to operate in Minnesota. A company that employs the number of people in the state, and pays as much in taxes, as Target would be particularly disposed to supporting this organization. It would have been foolish for them not to donate to such a group. And so they did. As their spokesman articulated:

"... the company gave $150,000 in cash and in-kind contributions to Minnesota Forward because the group's mission is to elect candidates from both parties who are focused on making "economic growth a priority."

"Target is very proud to call Minnesota home," said Michaud. "We want a business environment that allows us to be competitive, provide jobs, support our communities and deliver on our commitment to shareholders."

Ultimately, Minnesota Forward determined that Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer was most in agreement with their goals. This was not a close call. His Democrat opponent was an extreme liberal, one of the few candidates in the entire country who was calling for more income taxes and more corporate taxes, to fund even greater expansion of government during a recession and debt crisis. Emmer, on the other hand, called for cutting government expenses and not further burdening the private sector in this difficult economic environment.

To support Emmer, Minnesota Forward independently paid for a television ad. Excerpt from the narration:

As a legislator, Emmer voted against job-killing taxes and for reduced government spending. Now he's running for governor, working to grow jobs, getting government out of the way."

Nothing controversial about that. Nothing controversial about Target supporting that position, especially compared to what the other side was offering.

And then the Alinsky explosion hit. The tactics utilized, and media portrayal of the "controversy", are exemplified in this headline from CBS News:
Target Boycott Movement Grows Following Donation to Support "Antigay" Candidate

The cries of outrage were sent forth, the story went national (carried by the dutiful press), and suddenly it was wrong for a business to support its own economic interest because of something to do with gayness.

It was an interesting bit of sleight of hand. In order to demonize the support of a Republican candidate for pro-business reasons, the liberal pressure groups focused on an unrelated issue, gay marriage. An issue which Tom Emmer was adamant, to a fault, about not emphasizing during his campaign. Plus, it was an issue in which Tom Emmer's position (support of the one man-one woman definition of marriage), agreed with the overwhelming majority of voters, including, for one, Barrack Obama. Yet it was characterized as somehow "hateful" and "anti-gay" and a boycott movement was launched because Target supported him (for entirely other reasons).

Given the absurd nature of the allegations, you would hope they could be easily refuted and dismissed and Target could continue to pursue it's own reasonable interests. But on this issue, Target is no Koch.

Target first reacted with shock, then retreat. Their final corporate response can be found in the letter Target CEO Greg Steinhafel wrote to employees. Excerpt:

The intent of our political contribution to MN Forward was to support economic growth and job creation. While I firmly believe that a business climate conducive to growth is critical to our future, I realize our decision affected many of you in a way I did not anticipate, and for that I am genuinely sorry.

Going forward, we will soon begin a strategic review and analysis of our decisionmaking process for financial contributions in the public policy arena. And later this fall, Target will take a leadership role in bringing together a group of companies and partner organizations for a dialogue focused on diversity and inclusion in the workplace, including GLBT issues.

They apologized for pursuing their own reasonable interests, reinforcing the notion there is something wrong with supporting Republican candidates, and pledged to work on meeting the demands of their unjust accusers. Pathetic.

There was enough corporate shinola in the statement to make you think maybe they were just blowing smoke to silence the tantrum throwers. However, the extent of Target's willingness to appease their critics showed up in a recent article about Lady Gaga, of all people. Apparently she has demands for retail outlets that wish to sell her artistic contributions to the world. Excerpts from the Pioneer Press:

Part of my deal with Target is that they have to start affiliating themselves with LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) charity groups and begin to reform and make amends for the mistakes they've made in the past," she told Billboard. "Our relationship is hinged upon their reform in the company to support the gay community and to redeem the mistakes they've made supporting those groups."

So far in 2011, Minneapolis-based Target has pledged almost a half-million dollars to gay-equality groups, a company official told Billboard. Among them: Project 515, a Minnesota group that wants gay families treated equally with straight families under state law.

Not only is Target now prevented from supporting any Republican leaning groups for even benign reasons, but as their penance, they are actively funding liberal groups working to change state law on a highly controversial issue. Pathetic.

As is the conservative way, the honorable way, there has been no resulting movement to boycott Target over this, or frenzied headlines about their "anti-family" policies. There is no penalty to pay for supporting liberal groups, while supporting a Republican candidate or cause is a threatened death sentence (in a business revenue sense). In the long run, I'm not sure how the conservative movement can be sustained with this asymmetry in place.

By the way, 3M, watch your back, you might be next on the target list.