State Board of Investment wants lobbying transparency at 3M

The State Board of Investment unanimously agreed to support a shareholder resolution that would require 3M to say more about its lobbying activities, including its trade group memberships.

The resolution will be voted on at 3M’s upcoming annual meeting.

Common Cause Executive Director Mike Dean called the decision “an important step.” He urged the four-member board, which manages the state’s retirement, trust and cash investments, to support the shareholder resolution.

The shareholders of at least five Minnesota companies will vote on whether companies should say more about political donations and lobbying spending.

The resolutions are being circulated by American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, a public employee union, and firms that cater to investors who want to invest in corporations that are environmentally and socially responsible.

Such requirements have become more numerous and are getting more shareholder votes in recent years, in part due to the 2010 Supreme Court ruling that allowed corporations and unions to pay for advertisements calling for the election or defeat of candidates.

However, the Board decided to abstain from voting on a separate resolution that would prohibit 3M’s corporate dollars from being spent on political elections or campaigns.

3M’s Board of Directors has encouraged shareholders to vote against that resolution because it would diminish 3M’s ability to advocate for the company and its shareholders when it comes to new regulations and laws.

A similar concern was expressed by Deputy Secretary of State Jim Gelbmann during the meeting.

“I don’t think political contributions and expenditures buy votes, but I do think they buy access,” Gelbmann said. “Companies do need that access to decision makers and policy makers and the like. It’s very unfortunate that we have this Citizen’s United case on the books. If I could impose this restriction on every company, I’d do so. But I don’t think I’m ready to single out one company.”

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