…this is how it’s done!
3M had its shareholders meeting yesterday. Now, you may recall during last year’s Gubernatorial race when Target Corporation donated $150K to “MN Forward”, a pro-business advocacy group. Notwithstanding the fact that Target is historically among the most gay-friendly companies in one of the most gay-friendly cities in the country, “Alliance for a Better Minnesota” – an astroturf group funded by unions and members, ex-members and friends of the Dayton family – ran an epic toxic sleaze campaign calling Target “anti-gay”, because MN Forward supported Tom Emmer, who had supported a version of the same Marriage Amendment that will likely be on the ballot in 2012. It was a classic disinformation campaign – a corporate version of “when did you stop beating your wife”.
It didn’t really succeed commercially (Target’s stock tracked pretty closely with other mid-market retailers) or politically. But it did cow Target into a pusillanimous reaction; the company instituted new controls on their political donations, despite the fact that outside the social media and the lefty echo chamber, the protest was much ado about nothing.
By the opposite token, 3M CEO George Buckley shows how it should be done:
Stockholders sided with 3M’s board and defeated a proposal seeking more accountability on political contributions and another asking the company to reevaluate its position on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s board. The company did not provide vote totals. Both proposals were aimed at 3M’s support of conservative causes, including its $100,000 contribution last year to MN Forward, a group that supported Republican Tom Emmer in the governor’s race.
Buckley knows how to call “astroturf” when he sees it:
“I do compliment Macalester College on having 427 students come and ask questions today,” said Buckley, responding to a question on the first shareholder proposal, co-sponsored by Trillium Asset Management and Walden Asset Management, two Boston-based investment firms.
It was a good-natured exaggeration, although it betrayed a certain weariness on Buckley’s part. About 10 people in the crowd of 400 at St. Paul’s River Centre, including students and faculty members from Macalester and Carleton College, spoke as Walden proxies. In slightly differing ways, they asked Buckley to explain why 3M chose to support Emmer, whose stand against gay rights became a campaign issue. A $150,000 contribution to MN Forward by Target Corp. sparked a store boycott, and the retailer changed its policies on political contributions in February.
As a side issue – how long will the Twin Cities media keep pretending that “Trillium Asset Managment” and “Walden Asset Management” are real companies? Because they are not. They are to “investment” what the Minnesota Independent is to “news”; a potemkin front designed more for propaganda than any of its purported stated purposes.
Buckley answered all the questions basically the same way: That 3M doesn’t take social issues into account when deciding which candidates to support and that it had backed Emmer because of his pro-business stance. Buckley also defended 3M’s continued presence on the U.S. Chamber board, something one speaker at the meeting criticized because of the group’s opposition to some environmental protection laws and the health care reform bill. Buckley said staying involved with the Chamber is one way to make 3M’s voice heard in the organization.
So kudos to George Buckley. It’s nice to know we still have some CEOs who can be executives out there…