08 August 2010

My letter to Target's CEO

Mr. Gregg W. Steinhafel, CEO
Target Corporation
1000 Nicollet Mall
Minneapolis, MN 55403     •     Fax:        612-696-5400

Dear Mr. Steinhafel:

I am writing to you with regret, and even some sadness. I have been a customer of Target for nearly thirty years, and have come to rely on my local store as a source of good value on many products that my household needs. My family and I have consistently spent several hundred dollars each year there for many years. I realize that the amount of money my family has spent and would continue to spend at Target is a tiny, almost insignificant blip on your balance sheets, but I would ask you to recognize that there are millions of people like me. People who believe in America, who believe in the idea of America, that each individual person has the same voice as every other, and that our system of laws should be so restrained as to preserve these principles.

I, like millions of Americans, was and am deeply dismayed by the Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United case earlier this year, which allows corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money to influence political campaigns, including candidates for elective office and ballot propositions, and, still worse, to freely and anonymously funnel corporate funds through front groups, such as “MN FORWARD” and various chambers of commerce, political action committees, etc. We believe that this is literally inimical to our democracy; it dilutes the voice of individuals. It is, to be blunt, unpatriotic and un-American. Corporations are not people; when they, with their asymmetrically huge resources, are permitted to dominate politics, representative democracy is in peril. The very survival of our nation as a republic is in peril.

Having recently learned that Target Corporation has seen fit to contribute corporate funds to an organization that in turn supports a far-right wing candidate in Minnesota, I am outraged. Not merely because the candidate, a certain Mr. Tom Emmer, is a hate-filled bigot who has stated publicly that he favors the execution of gay citizens, although that is, of course, very deeply troubling in its own right. But also, on general principle. I have read just today that you, as Target CEO, apologized for this particular contribution, for which I applaud you. However, it is not enough. There must be a commitment not to engage in political contributions of corporate funds. Corporations, which are by nature public trusts, should not presume to make what amount to personal political choices. Yes, for the moment, you have the legal right to do this. But I, as a customer, have the right to say, No! If you do this, you will forego my custom. I will not do business with you.

I am appealing to you. Target should set an example. It is not too late to undo the damage, and regain the goodwill of your customers who oppose this kind of activity. Corporations, until such time as the law is changed to a more rational basis, should voluntarily forego contributing corporate funds to political movements, whether in support of candidates, legislative agendas, or ballot propositions. Regardless of ideology or party. And so I ask you to commit to permanently and completely refraining from this activity, as an organization, for the good of our Republic. And to say so forcefully, and publicly.

And so, as I said, with regret, I am letting you know that unless, or, more hopefully, until, Target Corporation commits to not contributing corporate funds to organizations or individuals to support individual political candidates, political agendas, or ballot propositions, I will not shop at Target or its affiliates, and I will let everyone I know know why I am not doing so, and ask them to join me in this boycott of Target.

The favor of a response will be much appreciated.

                                                                                          David Studhalter

In truth, something like this e-mail, apart from the specifics that triggered this particular response, could and probably should be sent to most large US corporations. I really believe that the principle that corporations, as public trusts, should not be making personal-type political choices with their corporate funds, needs to be adopted, if not enshrined in law, then voluntarily; and if it takes public pressure to get them to do it, I'm ready to do my bit to apply that pressure. 

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