Investment firms urge Target and 3M to refrain from "controversial" political donations

The donations Target and 3M made in 2010 to a Republican-run anti-gay group continue to land them in hot water a year and a half later.

Yesterday, two large progressive investment firms -- Trillium Asset Management and Green Century Capital Management -- announced they have filed shareholder resolutions at Target and 3M respectively. The resolutions urge the companies to refrain from making political donations this year.

Though neither Minnesota company is a particularly large political contributor, the investment firms singled them out because of their 2010 donations to MN Forward, a group that supported Republicans running for elected office, including then-gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer.

Target and 3M both have corporate non-discrimination policies regarding gays, yet gave $150,000 and $100,000 respectively in 2010 to MN Forward, which supported Emmer and his anti-gay marriage stance.

A press release issued by the investment firms notes that Target and 3M were singled out because of that "controversial" donation.

Meanwhile, Corporate Counsel reports that Common Cause and U.S. PIRG are sending letters to more than 700 business, including all S&P 500 companies, asking each to sign a public pledge renouncing the use of funds from their corporate treasuries for political purposes.

The report quotes a Green Century shareholder advocate as saying: "Given that corporate political spending may have a long-term negative correlation to shareholder value, and Target's first-hand experience with contribution-related backlash, we believe companies should protect against risk and refrain from using treasury funds for political purposes."

The message the investment firms are trying to send is simple: Don't piss off your shareholders, customers, and employees by supporting divisive political candidates. And for God's sake, if you're going to market yourself as a gay-friendly company, don't contradict yourself by supporting candidates who aren't.

With another election season about to heat up, we'll see if Target and 3M learned their lesson.

See also:
-- Target's gay problem keeps getting worse
-- Target apologizes for funding Tom Emmer ad

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