Target Boycott Fizzles

I don’t pretend to be a stock expert, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. 

But, here are some interesting stock price changes, based on some key dates.  Those dates are:

July 27, Minnesota disclosure laws reveal that Target contributed $150,000 and Best Buy $100,000 to Minnesota Forward, a business group based in Minnesota, where Target and Best Buy are both headquartered.  Minnesota Forward, in turn, has run ads supporting Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer, a business owner who has called for lower taxes, less regulation, and generally pro-business policies in the state.  On July 28, CBS News runs a hit piece critical of Target for exercising its First Amendment rights in support of “anti-gay” candidate. 

August 17, calls for boycott of Target.

September 10, last Friday’s market close.

Company/Index            % Change since 7/27          % Change since 8/17 (Boycott declared)

Target                          0.4%                                3.77%

Best Buy                       3.0%                                9.6%

Walmart                       1.6%                                1.8%

Costco                          6.9%                                6.6%

S&P 500                        0.5%                                1.6%

Admittedly, there is much going on here beyond the boycott, but a quick glance at the closing prices show that both Target and Best Buy have outperformed the S&P 500 by a considerable margin since MoveOn called for a boycott.  We also see that both companies have outperformed competitor WalMart by a substantial amount, and Best Buy has also drubbed competitor Costco.  Their performance is less impressive going back to the date of disclosure, but Best Buy still drubs Walmart and the S&P, and Target holds up respectably with the market indexes.  In short, if you bought Target and Best Buy stock on the day MoveOn declared its boycott, you’ve made some pretty good money.  One might want to run other numbers (we chose CostCo and WalMart as the two similar companies that show up at the top of the Yahoo! Finance list – we stopped there), but we suspect only by cherry picking data could one show any consumer backlash against these corporations.  

Again, there is much more to stock prices that MoveOn’s buffoonish boycott, but it certainly does not seem at first glance that either Target or Best Buy is suffering from having the audacity to exercise their First Amendment rights.  We hope that other businesses will take seriously their obligations to represent the interests of their shareholders in public policy debates, and not be cowed by new McCarthyites who seek to punish expression of contrary opinion.


  1. […] Members of the panel repeatedly asserted it was best the audience remained utterly ignorant to the ramifications of this measure. We were told by members of the panel that when it came to political spending, “All you need to know from this is that politics are risky” for shareholders, and “If [the SEC] decides not to enact the rule because of effects on politics, that would be an inappropriate political consideration.” Of course, the risk they were referring to is the ginned up smear campaigns by anti-corporate speech activists against companies whose money ultimately wound up being used by independent groups to support candidates these activists don’t like. The panel conveniently forgot to mention that, historically, not only were their peers responsible for these smear campaigns, but that they also didn’t have any sort of significant impact on shareholder value. […]

The Center for Competitive Politics is now the Institute for Free Speech.