Target has been named one of the World's Most Ethical Companies for 2011 by Ethisphere Institute, an international business ethics organization. But international superstar Lady Gaga disagrees. Gaga has killed a deal to release an exclusive version of her new album at Target stores, thanks to the company's support of an anti-gay politician.

Last summer Target made a $150,000 donation to Minnesota Forward and its affiliation with a controversial gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer. Emmer held some extreme anti-gay views and was affiliated with a group that reportedly advocated executing homosexuals.

Emmer ultimately lost the election but not before Target was the subject of a massive protest, forcing the retailer to re-examine how it makes political contributions in the future. That incident came as a surprise; Target had long been considered a progressive company and extends benefits to same sex partners.Lady Gaga's subsequent announcement that she'd be partnering with Target on the release of her album was considered another move by the retailer to make amends for the donation and a sign of further reform, as Gaga could wield her substantial influence. The pop star told Billboard: "Part of my deal with Target is that they have to start affiliating themselves with LGBT charity groups, and begin to reform and make amends for the mistakes they've made in the past."

But Lady Gaga is apparently not influential enough and ended the partnership. The deal was contingent on Target making reforms in its donation review policies, which it did, but she also wanted Target to step up its support of lesbian and gay organizations and causes. Target told the Windy City Times it plans to donate more than $500,000 to LGBT organizations this year. Again, not enough for Gaga.

Target executives said in a statement: "We were very surprised and disappointed by the statements made by Lady Gaga's organization related to her partnership with Target," the company wrote. "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."

Whether being named among the world's most ethical companies by an organization little known by the shopping public can undo any of this damage is difficult to tell. Target's press release describes the award as "capping off a recent wave of favorable recognition by respected publications and organizations."

This is the fifth consecutive year Target has received the award, and it currently sits at #22 on Fortune's list of Most Admired Companies.

WalletPop readers had a lot to say about Target's political donation and the subsequent protest. What has more pull? An award for ethics or Lady Gaga's smack down? And will it make a difference in where you choose to shop?


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