Gay rights group counters Target money

ST. PAUL — Minnesota gay marriage supporters including a Democratic-backed political fund, a state gay rights organization and state candidates, will split a $150,000 donation from a leading gay rights organization, after Target Corp. gave the same amount to a group helping a GOP gubernatorial candidate who opposes gay marriage.

Human Rights Campaign president Joe Solmonese said Friday that the donation is partly a response to Target's political involvement after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling allowed businesses to spend company money directly on elections. The retailer's money went to a fund helping Republican Tom Emmer, a gay marriage opponent, setting off a national backlash among liberals and the retailer's gay employees and customers.

Solmonese said he views Minnesota as one of the next states that could legalize gay marriage, and his group may spend more in the state to help its favored candidates win in November. Solmonese will deliver the keynote speech at the Human Rights Campaign's annual Twin Cities dinner in Minneapolis on Saturday.

A spokeswoman said Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mark Dayton, who supports gay marriage, will attend the event.

"Not only does Minnesota stand to be the next state poised to win marriage equality, but Mark Dayton is in a very strong position to be the next governor," Solmonese said.


He added: "The scope of our work here is certainly going to move beyond the $150,000."

The group is giving $100,000 to WIN Minnesota, a political fund whose money has been helping attack Emmer; $20,000 to the gay rights group OutFront Minnesota to mobilize voters; and $30,000 to pro-gay-rights state candidates, including Dayton and legislative hopefuls. The group announced its plans to give the money last month after Target declined to match its initial donation with another donation to help gay-friendly candidates.

Target has faced social media campaigns calling for a boycott since its donation became public in July. Solmonese said the Human Rights Campaign hasn't asked people to avoid shopping at Target, but more than 100,000 of the group's members contacted the Minneapolis-based company about its political donation.

WIN Minnesota raised more than $1.2 million through the Aug. 10 primary, including $800,000 from those with family ties to Dayton, including his ex-wife, an aunt and a cousin, according to state campaign finance reports. Most of the group's money went to the Alliance for a Better Minnesota to run TV ads criticizing Emmer.

Minneapolis-based OutFront Minnesota is one of the country's oldest gay rights organizations.

On top of the $150,000, Human Rights Campaign also plans to spend $17,000 on federal races in Minnesota, including $10,000 for congressional candidate Tarryl Clark, who is challenging GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann, a vocal gay marriage opponent. The rest goes to Reps. Tim Walz, Keith Ellison and Betty McCollum.

Both sides in the gay marriage debate see Minnesota as a watershed this year. The National Organization for Marriage, which aims to ban same-sex marriage, rallied its backers in St. Paul during a national tour over the summer. The entire state Legislature is on the ballot, and the governor's race is open with GOP Gov. Tim Pawlenty leaving office in January.

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