Investors urge Target to look at political giving

Minneapolis Shareholders of Target Corp. and Best Buy Co. on Thursday called on both retailers to review their political donations.

According to a report by the Associated Press, Walden Asset Management and Trillium Asset Management Corp., both of Boston, and Bethesda, Md.-based Calvert Asset Management Co. filed shareholder resolutions with Target and Best Buy. Together, the three firms control less than 1% of each company's outstanding shares.

Target gave $150,000 and Best Buy gave $100,000 to a business-focused political fund helping a conservative Republican gubernatorial candidate in Minnesota, triggering a national backlash from gay rights groups and liberals. The companies made the donations after a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling freed them to spend corporate funds on elections. The candidate, state legislator Tom Emmer, opposes gay marriage and other rights for same-sex couples.

"A good corporate political contribution policy should prevent the kind of debacle Target and Best Buy walked into," said Trillium VP Shelley Alpern. "We expect companies to evaluate candidates based upon the range of their positions -- not simply one area -- and assess whether they are in alignment with their core values. But these companies' policies are clearly lacking that."

The Target resolution urges the board to review the effect of future political contributions on the company's public image, sales and profitability and to consider the cost of backing a candidate whose politics conflict with the company's public stances.

The three investment companies together submitted the resolution to Target, while Calvert and Trillium filed the Best Buy shareholder proposal.