Election season invades ADM's shareholder meeting

2010-11-05T00:01:00Z 2010-11-05T00:44:23Z Election season invades ADM's shareholder meetingBy CHRIS LUSVARDI - H&R Staff Writer Herald-Review.com
November 05, 2010 12:01 am  • 

DECATUR - Although the election this week signaled change in a number of ways, Patricia Woertz doesn't see it changing the political influence of Archer Daniels Midland Co.

Woertz, ADM's chairman, president and CEO, was asked during the company's annual shareholder meeting Thursday at the James Randall Research Center in Decatur what she thought of the elections results.

The company tries to work on educating lawmakers regarding issues it finds important, Woertz said.

"We're an issue-based engager, not a political engager," Woertz said. "We work with whatever administration is present. Anytime there is an election or shift, we need to be prepared to work with whoever that is, in this case with the next Congress."

ADM has a large reach, as it operates in 119 congressional districts over 36 states, in addition to 60 countries, Woertz said.

Two shareholder proposals that were voted upon and rejected during the meeting focused on the way ADM discloses its political contributions. Supporters of the proposals want the company to be more transparent in its reporting.

A proposal from the International Brotherhood of Teamsters General Fund called on the company to provide contribution reports twice a year. It wants the report to include policies and procedures for political contributions and expenditures made with corporate funds.

Public data does not provide a complete picture of the company's political expenditures, said Jerry Conner, who presented the proposal at the meeting. For example, payments to trade associations used for political activities are undisclosed and unknown, Conner said.

ADM was asked to join 50 companies in the S&P 100 that already have adopted disclosure and board oversight of political spending with corporate funds.

That proposal was rejected with 24 percent of the shareholder vote in favor of it.

ADM believes its current practices in combination with federal and state requirements are sufficient to advance the company's interests and provide appropriate disclosure, Woertz said. Further information regarding trade associations would not provide stockholders with a greater understanding of ADM's strategies or philosophies about political contributions.

A second proposal from Marie Bogda of New Mexico was not approved, receiving just 4 percent of the votes cast. Bogda called for the company to adopt a policy prohibiting the use of corporate funds for any political election or campaign purposes.

The U.S. Supreme Court in January expanded the constitutional right of free speech protection in regards to political elections and campaigns to include corporations, Bogda said. With that protection, Bogda said corporations would have too much influence over the political spectrum and not represent customers and shareholders.

Woertz said ADM supports those who share its pro-growth vision and reports in accordance with applicable laws and regulations. It is prohibited from giving directly to candidates for federal office and national party committees.

ADM reports its corporate and Political Action Committee contributions each year, but the report is not broken down by candidate, Woertz said.

Its political contributions appear to be just a fraction of what the company earns each year. ADM's net earnings for 2010 totaled $1.9 billion, Woertz told shareholders.

ADM reports its corporate contributions totaled $191,100 through the first three quarters of the 2010 calendar year. Recipients ranged from individual state candidate campaigns to state political parties and select state-level political associations.

Illinois State Board of Elections records indicate some of those receiving contributions from ADM in 2009 and 2010 were Attorney General Lisa Madigan, gubernatorial candidate Doug Whitley, state Sens. Kyle McCarter and John Cullerton and state Reps. Bill Mitchell and Bob Flider. The Macon County Republican and Democratic central committees each received contributions, too.

ADM's political action committee contributions to federal candidates, state candidates and various federal and state campaign committees during the first three quarters of 2010 totaled $164,000, according to the company.

Some of the more notable contribution totals in federal records during the 2009-10 election cycle include $9,500 to U.S. Rep. Phil Hare's campaign, $5,500 to U.S. Reps. Aaron Schock and John Shimkus and $2,000 to U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson. Mark Kirk's campaign for U.S. Senate received $4,000 from ADM.

The Blue Dog Political Action Committee received $5,000. Congressional leaders John Boehner received $2,000 and Harry Reid got $2,500. The Democratic and Republican congressional and senate campaign committees received $100,000 total, or $25,000 each.

Contributions to ADM's political funds were received from various sources, including its top executives. Federal records show receipts of $293,485 with disbursements of $302,521 for the election cycle 2009-10 through Oct. 13.

Other business during the annual meeting included the company's board of directors being re-elected and a cash dividend of 15 cents per share being declared. ADM has declared a cash dividend for 316 consecutive quarters, a span of 79 years.



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