| OMAHA, Neb.
OMAHA, Neb. May 6 Berkshire Hathaway Inc
shareholders on Saturday rejected a proposal to have
the conglomerate run by Warren Buffett disclose its political
contributions twice a year.
The billionaire nonetheless expressed sympathy for the
proposal at Berkshire's annual meeting, expressing strong
opposition to the U.S. Supreme Court's 2010 decision in the
Citizens United case, which allowed unlimited independent
spending by corporations and labor unions in election campaigns.
Two shareholder proposals that would have required Berkshire
to report on its efforts to reduce methane emissions, and divest
stakes in companies involved in fossil fuels, were also voted
Saturday's votes were expected because Buffett, who controls
32.7 percent of Berkshire's voting power, opposed the proposals,
and Berkshire's board also recommended votes against them.
The proposal on political contributions, which won less than
11 percent of votes cast, was similar to proposals offered at
many companies and came from Clean Yield Asset Management on
behalf of shareholders Tom Beers and Mary Durfee.
Buffett, a supporter of Democrat Hillary Clinton in last
year's U.S. presidential election, said he believes Berkshire
has made no political contributions at the parent company level
in his 52 years at the helm, but some subsidiaries in heavily
regulated industries "are probably going to have to make some"
"I personally disagree with the Citizens United decision,"
Buffett said. "I think it is a minus in our democracy, and that
big money can often distort the political process."
He said he tells managers of Berkshire business units not to
get personally enmeshed in political matters, but that this did
not hold true for the businesses themselves.
"I'm sure that they give money to people I wouldn't vote
for, but that is the reality of doing business," he said.
"My heart is with you to some extent," he nonetheless told a
woman who made the proposal on Clean Yield's behalf.
On the methane emissions proposal from shareholder Marcia
Sage, Berkshire said its gas pipeline and other units have
already taken steps to reduce emissions, and that a separate
report was unnecessary.
The fossil fuels proposal from the Nebraska Peace Foundation
would have required Berkshire to sell investments in oil refiner
Phillips 66 and other companies involved in fossil fuels
over 12 years. Berkshire said complex social and moral issues
should not determine where it could invest.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in Omaha, Nebraska; Editing by
Jennifer Ablan and Jonathan Oatis)