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Target CEO “embattled and annoyed” by critics

A protester carrying a sign that says "Corporate $$ [not equal sign] Free Speech"
Public Citizen online organizer Rick Claypool at the Target protest (via Eric Russell/USW)

Opponents of corporate money’s corrupting influence in politics made their presence known loud and clear during Target Corporation’s annual shareholder meeting yesterday in Pittsburgh.

More than 100 protesters bearing signs with messages such as “Hands Off our Elections,” “Corporations are not people,” and “No Mouth, No Soul, No $peech” rallied outside of the not-yet-opened Target store in the East Liberty neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pa.

Several of the demonstrators – acting as proxies on behalf of Target shareholders – entered the shareholder meeting to interrogate CEO Gregg Steinhafel about the corporation’s expenditure of $150,000 to support an extreme right-wing candidate during the 2010 elections.

Questions about corporate money in politics in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission dominated the shareholder question and answer session.

Clearly, this was something CEO Steinhafel did not want to talk about. After several questions on different aspects of the corporate donation, he pleaded with the audience for somebody to ask a question about something else.

I then approached the microphone, explained my role at the shareholder meeting speaking as a proxy for the Sisters of Notre Dame, and asked yet another question – specifically, querying how the corporate spending is accounted for and pressing Steinhafel on the difference between Target’s lobbying money and its campaign expenditures, something the CEO had conflated in his explanations.

Several more questions followed about corporate money in politics followed. A fashion publication reported Steinhafel was “embattled and annoyed” by the question and answer session.

Disappointingly (but unsurprisingly), Target still refuses to cease or even commit to full disclosure of its political activities.

Nevertheless, the demonstration and shareholder question and answer session sent a strong message to corporations that they will be held accountable for meddling in the people’s elections.