Damn, does this mean I have to stop shopping at Target again? Lady Gaga announced this week she was ending her exclusive partnership with the national retail chain, after announcing just last month that she had brokered a deal to make the company adopt more LGBT-friendly policies.
Target and Mother Monster had agreed to sell a deluxe two-disc edition of her upcoming Born This Way album with three additional tracks and five remixes. The collaboration raised eyebrows when it was first announced because Target was the subject of a boycott last year for making corporate political contributions in support of an antigay Minnesota gubernatorial campaign. The $150,000 corporate donation angered many in the LGBT community, and rightfully so.
So, initially, the partnership between the ardent gay rights supporter and the company raised an eyebrow. In a Billboard interview, Lady Gaga was effusive about her work with Target and how intense and productive their collaboration was. Target, for their part, replied slightly less effusively, saying they while they were thrilled to be working with our lady of the shoulder horns, their policies had not been directly changed due to her input. Target had previously agreed to donate $500,000 to Project 515, a gay rights group in Minnesota, where the company is based.
So then this week comes an abrupt turnaround from Team Gaga. Her publicist confirmed that the singer and company “came to a mutual decision to end their overall exclusive partnership a few weeks ago.” An unnamed source close to her told The Advocate:
She and Target didn’t see eye to eye on Target’s policy of political donations and how they affect the LGBT community.
Target responded to the news with disappointment and surprise at the sudden dissolution of their deal. In a statement they said:
We were very surprised and disappointed by the statements made by Lady Gaga’s organization related to her partnership with Target. Target remains committed to the LGBT community as demonstrated by our contributions to various LGBT organizations, our recently established Policy Committee to review our political giving and our respectful, inclusive workplace environment.
All of this public back-and-forth is strange, given these sorts of high-profile dealings don’t just happen on a whim. In fact, Target is still advertising Lady Gaga’s exclusive CD on its website and you can still pre-order it. So, make of that what you will.
What this situation really does is highlight the effects of recent Supreme Court decisions giving corporations more play in the political arena. Early last year the Supreme Court ended a ban on corporate donations to political candidates. Previously only private individuals or a company-sponsored political action committees could donate to candidates. But with the ban over, corporations now have the same ability as citizens to donate directly to candidates they believe support their interests, but with much bigger coffers.
Sadly Target is not the only big national chain to write big checks and show big support to antigay candidates and causes. Best Buy gave $100,000 to the same anti-gay Minnesota gubernatorial candidate during the last election. Both donations were more motivated by his pro-business/anti-tax stances than his anti-gay ones, but they all come as a packaged deal. Recently Chick-fil-A has come under fire for supporting antigay groups.
The question then for consumers becomes how we choose to spend our money. How do we demand more accountability from the corporations we frequent? And how we convince them that the bottom line isn’t the only line that matters when it comes to supporting political candidates? Will Lady Gaga breaking her partnership with Target change the way you shop?