Viewpoint: Bullseye

By | 2018-01-15T23:31:29-04:00 August 12th, 2010|Opinions|

Somebody call Tom Cruise. The Human Rights Campaign is on a Mission: Impossible.
Its goal? To convince two of the world’s largest corporations, Target and Best Buy, to donate a combined quarter-million dollars to pro-equality candidates in Minnesota after the retail behemoths contributed an equal amount to MN Forward, a right-wing political action committee that backs anti-equality Minnesota gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer.
In the past two weeks, pressure has mounted against the consumer juggernauts as the HRC continues to lead a charge intended to shame both outlets into giving funds to politicians who work on behalf of equal rights. As if that’s supposed to “right” the “wrong.”
Of course, I’m not surprised that the HRC would suggest a dollar-for-dollar approach to call off the queer uprising. Especially since the HRC’s own agenda is fueled by greed and crispy greenbacks. Yep, you read it right. HRC president Joe Solmonese and his holier-than-thou “activists” are as shady as those at whom they shake their fingers. And they should be ashamed of themselves.
While HRC proper is a 501(c)4 group – a distinction that allows it to lobby on Capitol Hill but keep the identities of its donors private – the HRC Foundation, the “charitable” arm of the HRC isn’t exactly a model of efficiency or full disclosure.
Consider, for instance, that the Foundation spends nearly 30 percent of its net income on administrative and fundraising expenses combined, according to Charity Navigator, the most-utilized and trusted evaluator of charities. What does that mean? For starters, it means that $1.3 million dollars is spent to pay inflated salaries, while another $1.3 million is spent on the junk mail that carries your “free” sticker.
What’s even more suspect is that there’s no reported compensation for Betsy Pursell, HRC vice president of public education and outreach, on CharityNavigator.com, whereas likeminded equal-rights organizations, such as the Gay & Lesbian Leadership Institute and the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, dutifully disclose how much they pay their head honchos.
Where the HRC gets off scolding Best Buy and Target is beyond me. As a business, the HRC makes business decisions too, like choosing not to compensate its hardworking volunteers – the men and women who canvass the streets in extreme heat and cold to spread the pro-equality message. I dare anyone to ask how much Solmonese gets paid to sit in his cushy office while his underpaid and, in some cases, unpaid minions do the grunt work. In fact, I double dare you. And I want to be there when you fall out of your chair in disbelief.
It goes without saying that I’m siding with Best Buy and Target on this one. But not just because I think the HRC is a crock.
I’m Team Target because the numbers don’t lie. Target is one of the most philanthropic companies in the nation, and it gives more than $3 million each week – each week! – to the communities in which it operates. And I’m Team Best Buy because the consumer electronics retailer donates up to 1.5 percent of pretax earnings to support national organizations like the United Way and American Red Cross, as well as funding scholarship and other community initiatives throughout the country.
Let us not overlook either that both companies were featured in the HRC’s Best Places to Work 2010, listed among the “top businesses that support equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees.” None of that matters to the HRC, though.
Still, despite the HRC’s smear campaign, Target and Best Buy are sticking to their positions of support for MN Forward and Emmer, because at the end of the day both corporations have to protect their bottom lines – two of which include providing top-quality merchandise to Americans at affordable prices and providing jobs. Lots of jobs. Target defended itself best in response to a letter from an outraged customer – both of which were posted on Queerty.com – when it said, “Our support of causes and candidates is based strictly on issues that affect our retail and business objectives” and “MN Forward’s objective is to elect candidates from both parties who will make job creation and economic growth a top priority.”
Right on. Jeremy Bentham would agree.
He’s the dead English philosopher who advocated and made popular an idea called utilitarianism – that is, choosing an action based on the greatest good for the greatest number of people. I believe that’s what’s happening here.
Target and Best Buy aren’t stupid; they don’t take their political decisions lightly. One must assume that they knew what they were getting into. One must also trust that theirs was a strategic decision that in the long run will benefit more people than it will put off.
By now, however, you’ve probably made up your mind to boycott both establishments because the venerable HRC told you to. But I hope you’ll permit these three words: Beware the propaganda.
The HRC has an agenda, too – and as much as you think it’s advocating for equal rights, it’s equally intent on raising a ton of cash. Because Solmonese doesn’t get paid in rainbows and unicorns. If you think that statement’s false, take a good long look at the bold blue “Donate Today” button on the bottom of your HRC e-mails.
Why is it there? Because money – not idealism – makes the world go ’round.
At least Target and Best Buy admit it.

About the Author:

Mikey Rox is an award-winning journalist and LGBT lifestyle expert whose work has been published in more than 100 outlets across the world. He splits his time between homes in New York City and the Jersey Shore with his dog Jaxon. Connect with Mikey on Twitter @mikeyrox.