What's makes the fact that corporations aren't people (or even normal groups of people) so obvious is their ability to work together even when their economic interests are supposedly in conflict. And now they're circling the wagons around Target; they want these sorts of donations to be normalized as quickly as possible so that they'll have more power over American elections.
I already posted yesterday about the LA Times's sloppy editorial that called actions against Target "distasteful," and now MSNBC (a product of General Electric and Microsoft, lest we forget and start believing that the network is actually politically progressive) is refusing to air MoveOn.org's ad to boycott Target.
MSNBC and its parent, General Electric, refuse to air MoveOn.org's ad calling for a boycott of Target, stating the spot doesn't "comply with NBC's 'Controversial Issue Advertising policy,' because the ad is a direct attack on an individual business." (In fact, the ad referenced "Target and other corporations.") The advocacy group had purchased a week of airtime in Minneapolis and nationally on MSNBC, according to a MoveOn.org release.
That they even have that rule shows their real values. I don't watch MSNBC, but I'm guessing they allow commercials where one corporation compares their product to that of another corporation, or where one political candidate attacks another political candidate. If corporations are now players in our political system, why can't another political entity attack their politics?
There is a bizarre aspect to this, as the corporations most directly disadvantaged by the Citizens United decision were those like Microsoft and GE that have holdings in the media. Media corporations were already allowed to electioneer all they wanted, and they were already using their power over the public discourse to try to sway public opinion one way or another (look to the corporate media's generally poor performance in the run-up to the Iraq War, for example; it wasn't an accident).
But this is a more ideological battle for corporate America than it is for the rest of us and the peasants aren't allowed to truly fight that sort of power. MCNBC can see the bigger issue at play here.
Another corporation that isn't necessarily circling its wagon around Target but is definitely confused about what's going on is HRC. Michaelangelo Signorile got a brilliant exchange with HRC on their "Buying for Equality" guide, which is based on their Corporate Equality Index. Both still list Target as having a 100 rating, and the Buying for Equality guide has Target listed under "Where to Shop," "Apparel and Accessories," and "Food and Beverage."
I've been critical of the CEI and the Buying for Equality guide for a long time on Bilerico for a variety of reasons. This situation highlights a few of them: the guide doesn't take all known information about a corporation into account as it just uses their executives' responses to a few questions on their official policies on LGBt issues; it implies that buying at certain corporations does anything to advance a political agenda; and it excludes small businesses, once again favoring a upwards redistribution of power.
It's fine and good to list companies based on workplace practices and they should be letting LGBT people know what are the best companies to work for. But telling people to spend their money at these companies -- and then HRC taking donations from these companies, as they have done with Target -- puts your group in a bad position. It appears as if the reason for the buyer's guide is to get donations from the companies in return for sending LGBT consumers to them. And the reason HRC is now "grappling" and trying to figure out what to do is because they're worried about other companies in their index, some of which no doubt also give to antigay causes or candidates. If they remove Target they'll have to remove others. They shouldn't have been in this position -- or should be able to react quickly and change the buyer's guide immediately when a problem arises.
The guide lists its official sponsors right on the back:
If these big businesses are paying for this guidebook and for HRC's corporate work, how can HRC be trusted to objectively evaluate their queer-friendliness? And while Target isn't on that list of sponsors, I'm sure that there are other corporations on that list longing to give money to Republicans and conservative PACs that support tax cuts and deregulation... who also happen to oppose queer-friendly legislation.
Anyway, I'm glad this donation grabbed people's attention since it's really become an educational tool on how corporate America operates. If anything, people need more clarity on who shares their interests and who doesn't, and these happenings show how deep Corporate America's love of the pink dollar is.
Update: HRC removed Target and Best Buy from their Buying for Equality guide:
The recent political contributions by Target and Best Buy are cause for reflection on the criteria used for future editions of the Corporate Equality Index (CEI). While considering all of this, it's important to keep in mind that the CEI has made a tremendous impact in the real lives of LGBT people in large part because it has been a predictable and transparent roadmap for companies to institute fair workplace policies. Instead of making capricious decisions about scoring criteria, we believe that a responsible consideration of all of the facts is the smartest way to move forward.
Already complicated, the Citizens United decision has made campaign finance issues even more complex. HRC is thoughtfully studying the many ramifications of political giving by companies in this new reality.
The CEI, upon which the Buyer's Guide is based, was completed in June 2009. Under that set of criteria, both Target and Best Buy scored 100 percent. The Buyer's Guide available on our website was released in November 2009 and is representative of the information known to us at the time. Because we understand the impact of leaving Target and Best Buy on the various products associated with the Buyer's Guide, both companies will soon be removed from it.
HRC will not encourage people to shop at either store and believes that consumers should make their own decisions after careful consideration of all of the information available to them.