In the new 2011 Corporate Equality Index (CEI) released by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), three Minnesota corporations’ ratings were decreased due to political activity. Target, Best Buy and 3M all were given an 85-point rating after each received a 15-point reduction for their donations to independent expenditure group MN Forward.
Those donations were protested by LGBT-rights groups as Emmer opposes civil rights measures and has ties to a controversial Christian rock band. In last year’s index, each of those company received a perfect score. The HRC had already announced that Target and Best Buy would be dropped from the organization’s buying guide.
In judging U.S. businesses, the CEI measures a number of factors such as non-discrimination policies, providing partner benefits to same-sex couples and diversity training. They also include a category titled “responsible citizenship,” worth 15 points, that examines whether corporations have “a large-scale official or public anti-LGBT blemish on their recent records.” Best Buy, Target and 3M were granted perfect scores in all categories except the responsible citizenship measure, where all three lost the full 15 points.
In July, Target and Best Buy contributed $150,000 and $100,000 respectively to MN Forward, an independent group that has spent almost all of their funds running advertisements supporting Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer or attacking Mark Dayton, the Democrat in the race. 3M joined the list of MN Forward donors in September, contributing $100,000 to the organization. Progressive organizations had been largely mute on that latest donation until the new edition of the CEI.
Explaining the downgrade in the three companies’ ratings, the HRC’s report says:
This summer, it came to light that Target Corp., Best Buy Co. Inc. and 3m Co. – all of which had outstanding workplace policies and 100 percent scores on the CEI – had donated substantial sums to an independent expenditure committee supporting an anti-LGBT gubernatorial candidate. HRC confronted the companies about their donations, which could help block marriage equality in Minnesota if this candidate is elected. In doing so, HRC highlighted the dangers of a post-Citizens United world and channeled the LGBT community’s anger toward what HRC hoped would be a reasonable solution. As of this writing, the companies have chosen to take no corrective action and are being penalized under the existing CEI criteria not for the donation itself, but for failing to respond to significant community concerns.
The downgrade for Target, Best Buy and 3M was outside the general trend for U.S. companies in the CEI. The report granted a perfect rating to 337 businesses, an increase from the 2010 CEI, which gave a 100 percent rating to 305 companies.
Patrick Caldwell is the American Independent’s Minnesota correspondent.