Tuesday, August 17, 2010
I continue to be fascinated by the fallout from Target's decision to donate $150,000 to an organization supporting Tom Emmer, the GOP candidate for Minnesota governor. Emmer, besides being a conservative who favors lower taxes, opposes same-sex marriage (though he is trying to avoid that issue as much as possible in the campaign). After petition drives and much boycott talk, Target's CEO apologized. Now Target, apparently after intensive negotiations, has rejected the Human Rights Campaign's demand that the company donate $150,000 to a pro-gay rights candidate. (I would predict, though, that Target will soon take other steps to remedy this perceived lapse in its support for gay rights.) A few years ago, I wrote an article arguing in favor of the corporation as a venue for conscience, suggesting that it is a good and healthy thing for our society when corporations take morally distinct stances. The Supreme Court, in Citizens United, has made it easier under the law for corporations (and labor unions) to do so in the political arena (and of course, it is possible for a corporation to take many morally distinct stances outside the political arena!). The Target case, though, illustrates how tricky it can be. To the extent that a greater corporate role in politics is thought to be a benefit primarily for conservative, pro-business candidates, I wonder if we need to amend the conventional wisdom to clarify that the benefit may accrue primarily to pro-business candidates who avoid controversial stances on "culture war" issues. Perhaps Citizens United is good news for the GOP's libertarian wing more than anyone else? Thoughts?