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Shareholders could decide Home Depot’s political spending

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Bob Moon: In Atlanta today, Home Depot shareholders are voting on political spending. This grows out of a landmark Supreme Court ruling last year, that the government can’t stop companies from supporting political causes. But shareholders are a different story.

Jim Burress reports from WABE in Atlanta.

Jim Burress: Home Depot operates under eight core guiding values, everything from excellent customer service to giving back to communities to fostering a respect for all people.

But Julie Goodridge says Home Depot’s political contributions are out of line with that last one.

Julie Goodridge: If you’re going to give to political candidates as a corporation, you’d better make doggone sure that those candidates uphold everything that your company stands for.

Goodridge is CEO of NorthStar Asset Management, a Boston investment firm. Its portfolio includes Home Depot stock, specifically because of the company’s commitment to diversity. She says because shareholders own Home Depot, they should decide.

Goodridge: They were giving to candidates who were actively rolling back the rights of GLBT people in the states in which they did business.

Home Depot says choosing how to make political contributions is the role of executives, not shareholders. But the Securities and Exchange Commission disagreed, saying shareholders do have that right — thus today’s vote. Home Depot is the first of what will likely be a long string of such votes.

Bill Buzbee is an administrative law professor at Emory University.

Bill Buzbee: Certainly, other corporations might seek to challenge the SEC’s ruling because it will act as precedent for other companies.

Even if shareholders vote to take control of political contributions, the measure is non-binding, meaning Home Depot executives could just ignore it.

In Atlanta, I’m Jim Burress for Marketplace.

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