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A woman arrives Feb. 25, 2021, at a Kohl's store in West Des Moines, Iowa. (AP) A woman arrives Feb. 25, 2021, at a Kohl's store in West Des Moines, Iowa. (AP)

A woman arrives Feb. 25, 2021, at a Kohl's store in West Des Moines, Iowa. (AP)

By Ricardo Torres April 19, 2024

Has Kohl’s Corp. donated to Black Lives Matter? Short answer: no

If Your Time is short

  • The National Center for Public Policy Research claims Kohl’s Corp. donated $1 million to Black Lives Matter since 2020

  • Kohl’s donated to five Milwaukee-area nonprofits. None of them are Black Lives Matter

  • The group sought to shift the blame, but ultimately stood by their statement

In 2020, the murder of George Floyd sparked social unrest that captured the country’s attention, and major corporations looked inward to see what they could do to improve racial disparities.

Wisconsin-based Kohl’s Corp. is under scrutiny by an activist investor related to donations it pledged back in 2020.

The National Center for Public Policy Research, based in Washington, D.C., filed a proposal for shareholders to vote on creating a committee that would "review the company’s policy positions, advocacy, partnerships and charitable giving on social and political matters, and the effect of those actions on the Company’s financial sustainability."

The National Center for Public Policy is a conservative group that invests in companies and files proposals to achieve goals of reducing activity related to diversity, equity, inclusion, race, gender and LGBTQ+ issues. 

In its pitch to Kohl’s shareholders, the Center stated:

"According to the Claremont Institute’s BLM (Black Lives Matter) Funding Database, Kohl’s has contributed $1,000,000 to the BLM movement and related causes since 2020."  

In the proposal, the phrase "related causes" is vague and does not elaborate on what those other causes are. So, we’ll stick with the one the group mentioned.

Did the company donate to Black Lives Matter?

In short: No.

Kohl’s donations to nonprofits

Within the proposal, the National Center for Public Policy Research links to a database from the Claremont Institute Center for the American Way of Life, a conservative organization that — according to its website — tries to "fight the Left’s central doctrine: identity politics." 

A search of the organization’s database shows Kohl’s contributing $1 million to Black Lives Matter. And it includes a link to a Kohl’s news release. So, it looks correct.

But not once you start reading deeper.

In the news release, the retailer says it is contributing $1 million to five Milwaukee-area nonprofit organizations:

  • Greater Milwaukee Urban League, which offers opportunities for education and employment for area residents.

  • Employ Milwaukee, which helps adults and teenagers find jobs in Milwaukee County, and connect businesses to workers.

  • Acts Housing, which works with potential homebuyers in Milwaukee and Beloit to find housing and financial counseling to purchase a house.

  • Safe & Sound, which tries to strengthen neighborhoods by bringing residents, law enforcement and resources together.  

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  • Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee, which provides children with educational and recreational programming. It also can provide meals and a safe place for children outside of school.

There is no mention of a contribution to Black Lives Matter. 

In the proxy statement, Kohl’s is recommending shareholders vote against this proposal. 

In an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Stefan Padfield, deputy director of the Free Enterprise Project at the National Center for Public Policy Research, said checking on every point in a proposal is difficult for the organization. 

"We don’t have the resources to dig down layer after layer for every proposition," Padfield said. "So when we have a reputable organization, like Claremont, and they put out this information and we do a couple of checks and it seems very reasonable, then we find that’s appropriate to use as a basis, among the many other issues that we cite that are seemingly related in this sort of left-leaning, what seems like a left-leaning agenda that Kohl’s is supporting." 

After the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel restated the nonprofits listed in the link the center sourced, Padfield said the broader point is being missed. 

"If we take a big step back on what’s happened, we’ve had a lot of news reports in the last six months to a year pointing out various problems with the Black Lives Matter movement," Padfield said. "So, there’s good reason for shareholders to say ‘Wait a minute. You donated a million dollars or you committed to donate a million dollars to this organization given everything we’re learning about the problems and how it’s not helping.’"

But Kohl’s didn’t donate to BLM. 

When Padfield was questioned again about the center’s assertion that Kohl’s donated to Black Lives Matter, he said if the center is wrong, Kohl’s should say so.

"It’s an absolutely appropriate response to say ‘You’re wrong. That index is wrong and here’s how we know that and here’s how we track our donations and how they helped the community,’" Padfield said. "Fantastic. Absolutely fantastic, so go ahead and let us know that. ... But where we are in the process of what we’re doing, we have reason as shareholders, to be concerned for that (contribution) among the other concerns that we raised in our proposals."  

Padfield said the center has changed some of its proposals in the past after dialogue with companies. 

"But that hasn’t happened (with Kohl’s) to this point," Padfield said. "This is a process. We feel very comfortable with the proclamations that we made and what we’re resting our proposal on."

Christina O'Connell, senior campaign manager for shareholders investments for Eko, a nonprofit focused on corporate accountability, said Eko has monitored the proposals by the group. 

"They definitely, I would say, exaggerate their claims," O’Connell said. "They’re part of a campaign to oppose what they call ‘woke capitalism.’ And all of this circles around claims that companies are giving in to what they describe as extreme or radical left-wing interests. And they see their goal as solving that through these proposals."

O’Connell said issues on diversity and race in business attract the attention of the center. 

"They’re focused on Black Lives Matter and that kind of taking a set of local donations and claiming that they’re Black Lives Matter donations seems to be part of their strategy," O’Connell said.  

Our ruling

In a pitch to shareholders, the National Center for Public Policy Research stated: "Kohl’s has contributed $1,000,000 to the BLM movement and related causes since 2020."  

But a quick read through the links the group cites clarifies that the statement is not accurate. And when confronted on this point, the National Center for Public Policy Research first shifted the blame to Claremont, Kohl’s, then blamed a lack of resources, but eventually stood by the statement. 

The statement is not accurate, so we’re ruling it False. 


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Has Kohl’s Corp. donated to Black Lives Matter? Short answer: no

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