Target Corp. has quietly changed its policy on political giving, after taking heat last year over a donation to a group that supported conservative Republican Tom Emmer for governor.
New guidelines include a vetting of contributions by a group of senior executives "to ensure a variety of perspectives," according to the policy posted on the Minneapolis-based retailer's website. The executives, working with CEO Gregg Steinhafel, will report to a board of directors committee at least twice a year.
The policy was implemented earlier this year, spokeswoman Amy Reilly said Thursday.
Last summer, Target gave $150,000 to MN Forward, a political action group that supported Emmer, a pro-business candidate who opposes gay marriage. Target said at the time that its decision was based on MN Forward's tax and jobs platform.
But Target's employees and many in the community perceived the donation as out of line with Target's long-standing commitment to supporting gay-rights issues and workplace equality.
It was the first election since a Supreme Court ruling made it possible for companies to give directly to campaigns from their corporate coffers.
"It's a good sign that corporations are being mindful of the power their election dollars have in determining outcome of elections," said Monica Meyer, executive director of OutFront Minnesota, whose protest letter to Steinhafel went viral and helped spark a nationwide backlash. "I look forward to the day when people's basic rights aren't going to be up for political debate."
Although MN Forward received six-figure donations from other local corporations -- including 3M, Best Buy, Regis, Polaris, Securian and Hubbard Broadcasting -- Target took the brunt of criticism.
Gay-rights supporters called for a nationwide boycott, a handful of institutional investors sold shares and lobbied for policy changes, and those who disagreed with the Supreme Court's ruling used Target's case as fuel for their cause.
Steinhafel took the unusual step of apologizing to his workers -- though not for the donation itself -- saying "our decision affected many of you in a way I did not anticipate, and for that I am genuinely sorry."
A Best Buy spokeswoman said the Richfield-based company also is revising its policy and will reveal details at the start of its fiscal year in March.
Emmer narrowly lost the race to former U.S. Sen. Mark Dayton, whose family founded the retail chain that started Target.
Jackie Crosby • 612-673-7335