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Activists to tell Target: Cease corporate political spending

A photograph of a Target store logo.Target Corporation would rather everyone forget that it joined Karl Rove and the Koch brothers in 2010’s frenzy of corporate political spending.

But Public Citizen and a diverse coalition of groups committed to standing up to corporate influence in elections have other plans.

During Target’s June 8 shareholder meeting in Pittsburgh, the groups, including Common Cause, Delta Foundation, Keystone Progress and We Are One coalition members, will rally to demand that Target keep its money out of politics.

Here are the details:

What: Target Shareholder Protest

When: Wednesday, June 8, noon to 2 p.m.

Where: 6231 Penn Ave., Pittsburgh, Pa., 15206 (the not-yet-opened Target store in East Liberty, near Bakery Square)

Why target Target? Last year, the big box behemoth provided a case study of why it’s so outrageous that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that, under the First Amendment, corporations and people are the same. As a result of this ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, corporations like Target can spend as much as they want to influence elections.

And boy did Target want to influence an election. It gave $150,000 to MN Forward, a front group backing Tom Emmer, an extreme right-wing candidate in Minnesota’s 2010 gubernatorial race.

Target spokespeople tried to justify the support by explaining Emmer was the pro-business candidate (he supported repealing all corporate taxes) – and unwittingly highlighted the stark contrast between corporate interests and the interests of real people.

This is a guy who supported a constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage, tried to eliminate the state’s minimum wage, and favored allowing pharmacists to refuse to dispense contraceptives. On the political spectrum, he makes Scott Walker look like Howard Dean.

The backlash against Target was swift. Advocates for LGBTQ rights and corporate accountability mobilized. There was a boycott. There was a flash mob. Lady Gaga even got involved.

In response, Target apologized and made superficial changes to its policies on corporate political spending.

That’s not enough. So on June 8, we will urge Target’s CEO and shareholders to keep Target’s money out of politics and send the message that corporations that pour money into the people’s elections will be held accountable.

Corporate shareholders – the real owners of any publicly traded corporation – are people. Nearly half of all American households are shareholders (anyone with a 401(k) or similar retirement fund), and we shareholders should have the power to stop CEOs from writing unlimited checks from corporate treasuries to impact politics. After all, it’s our money.

Empowering shareholders is just the beginning. Public financing of elections, full disclosure of all political spending, and a constitutional amendment to reverse Citizens United are all essential.

Target disclosing its political spending and giving its shareholders a louder voice in its spending decisions would be a step in the right direction – a step toward restoring democracy for people.

Let us know if you will attend the June 8 demonstration in Pittsburgh and help spread the word.