3M CEO Grilled About Political Donation, Retirement

At the company's annual meeting on Tuesday, George Buckley reportedly defended the company's political gift to MN Forward last year and remained relatively quiet about when he'll retire.

3M Company CEO George Buckley faced a tough crowd at the company's annual investor meeting on Tuesday, where he defended 3M's political contributions and sidestepped questions about whether he plans to retire next year.

According to the Star Tribune, stockholders backed 3M's board and rejected a proposal for more accountability on political contributions.

But about 10 people, acting as proxies on behalf of investment firm Walden Asset Management, reportedly asked Buckley to explain why 3M supported Republican Tom Emmer in Minnesota's last gubernatorial race. The company gave $100,000 last year to MN Forward-a group that backed Emmer, who opposes gay marriage. Several Minnesota companies came under fire for backing MN Forward, and Target changed its policies on political donations in February.

The shareholder proposal for increased accountability for political donations was co-sponsored by Walden and Trillium Asset Management-both of which are based in Boston.

According to the Star Tribune, Buckley responded to the queries about political contributions by saying that 3M doesn't take social issues into account when determining which political candidates to support. It backed Emmer because of his pro-business stance, he told the crowd.

Later, after the wife of a 3M employee urged Buckley not to leave the company, he reportedly said: “Thank you. It's best I say nothing else.”

Rumors about Buckley's departure surfaced in December when Bloomberg-citing unnamed sources-reported that he was looking for an early exit and named three 3M executives who were reportedly being considered for the position. A couple weeks later, Buckley told Bloomberg: “I'm going to stay with the company as long as the board lets me.”

His contract expires in February 2012 when he'll turn 65-the company's mandatory retirement age for executives. It's unknown whether the board will change the retirement policy to allow Buckley to stay.