Bid for more disclosure of 3M's political spending fails

3M campus in Maplewood, Minn.
MPR File Photo/Jeffrey Thompson

3M disclosed Tuesday that shareholders had rejected proposals regarding the company's political spending and lobbying. Today, the company revealed the margin of defeat for those measures.

The lobbying proposal received 158,489,434 (39 percent) votes for and 245,296,194 (61 percent) against.

The proposal called for the 3M board to authorize the preparation of an annual report disclosing:

• Company policy and procedures governing lobbying;

• Lobbying expenditures;

• Membership in and payments to any tax-exempt organization that writes and endorses model legislation.

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Backers of the proposal said 3M spent nearly $4 million in 2009 and 2010 on direct federal lobbying activities, according to the U.S. Senate Office of Public Records.

The 3M board argued the company already substantially complies with the demands of the proposal. Since 2007, 3M says it has voluntarily published a detailed explanation of its lobbying and political efforts. That information is on 3M's website.

The proposed ban on using corporate treasury funds for political spending lost by a much wider margin. There were 20,837,167 (5 percent) votes for it and 379,494,315 (95 percent) against.

The political contributions proposal called for a ban on the use of corporate funds for any political election or campaign. Proponents said 3M has spent approximately $1.5 million in corporate funds on political activities since 2002. But they say that figure does not include payments to trade associations or other tax-exempt organizations that may channel corporate money to political ends.

The 3M board opposed the proposal, saying it is in the stockholders' and company's best interests to be "an effective participant in the legislative and regulatory process."

"To effectively advocate the company's and stockholders' interests, we believe we must actively participate in the political process, including by supporting candidates whose views are aligned with the company's business interests," the board said in a regulatory filing.

In 2011, 3M's political action committee made $166,000 in contributions to candidate committees.

The company said it also discloses on its website all contributions to state and local candidates and political parties, as well as contributions in excess of $10,000 to "527" political organizations. A 527 is generally defined as a party, committee or association that is organized and operated primarily for the purpose of influencing federal, state or local elections.