Wal-Mart and Target: The color of their money

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After the last presidential election, the conventional wisdom held that the American body politic was nearly evenly split between Red and Blue. Like much conventional wisdom, there was some truth to it.

But of course the endless pontifications about the "polarized public" misssed the main point. The political opinions of the hoi polloi aren't nearly so significant as those of the nation's ruling elite: in other words, the business establishment.

With that dispiriting reality in mind, some left-leaning numbers crunchers built a website called BuyBlue.org. Essentially a giant database, BuyBlue aggregates the political contributions to candidates for federal office from the top executives of America's largest corporations and their affiliated political action committees.

Drawing mainly on data from the Federal Elections Commission and the invaluable Center for Responsive Politics, the site aims to give consumers a better idea about the political leanings of the companies where they spend their money. Put another way, BuyBlue tells you where big box bigwigs lie on the red-blue continuum. The ratings run from zero (the "deep red" designation) to 100 (the "deep blue" designation).

Not surprisingly, BuyBlue found that Wal-Mart executives and its PACs contributed heavily to Republican causes and candidates. This earned the world's largest corporation a "light red" rating of 22 percent.

Now take a peek at the ratings of some of the better known Minnesota companies. Given the North Star state's lingering reputation as bastion of progressive politics, you might imagine that the hometown retail behometh, Target, would be "bluer" than Wal-Mart. You would be wrong. According to BuyBlue, Target earns a "deep red" rating of 17 percent, thanks in large part to the largesse of CEO and Chairman of the board, Robert Ulrich. The company has also spread its money to other conservative causes not mentioned in the BuyBlue database, such as a $20,000 grant to the Minneapolis-based Center of the American Experiment.

Target, however, is a veritable Bolshevik sleeper cell compared to the Richfield-based electronics retailer Best Buy. According to BuyBlue, Best Buy's top executives contributed exlusively to Republican candidates in the 2003-04 election cycle, earning the company the deepest of the deep red ratings: zero.

Meanwhile, it might come as comfort to some of City Pages critics on the right that Goldman Sachs--the investment company that co-owns the alt weekly chain of which CP is a part--earns a "light red" rating of 38 percent.

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