Just a week after Westgate Resorts CEO David Siegel wrote a partially plagiarized letter threatening to fire employees if they voted for Obama, now comes news that Koch Industries is taking a similar approach by using its position as a major employer to influence elections. According to an In These Times report, the Koch-owned Georgia Pacific sent a packet to its 45,000 employees earlier his month. The packet included a cover letter from Koch Industries President and Chief Operating Officer Dave Robertson which reads, in part:
While we are typically told before each Presidential election that it is important and historic, I believe the upcoming election will determine what kind of America future generations will inherit.
If we elect candidates who want to spend hundreds of billions in borrowed money on costly new subsidies for a few favored cronies, put unprecedented regulatory burdens on businesses, prevent or delay important new construction projects, and excessively hinder free trade, then many of our more than 50,000 U.S. employees and contractors may suffer the consequences, including higher gasoline prices, runaway inflation, and other ills.
In other words, if you vote for Obama or other Democrats, you might lose your job. Of course, Robertson denies that’s what he meant. And all that threatening stuff he just wrote about what will happen if you vote for the wrong candidate? He didn’t really mean that either.
Oh, my God! The eeevil Koch Brothers will fire employees for voting for Obama! Of course, ballots are secret so they have no way of knowing who voted for Obama. So they can’t really retaliate (and I would dare say that the majority of Georgia Pacific employees are voting for Romney, anyway).
But he is telling them who to vote for! Man the trenches! Who does he think he is? A … a … a … union?
First, how is this different from a union telling its members how to vote? Or, for that matter, the UC system sending me emails about how the world will end if Prop 30 doesn’t pass? The notion that a business can’t tell its employees that elections have consequences strikes this observer as absurd, not to mention a gross infringement on First Amendment rights. Should the First Amendment really be interpreted as giving pornographers more rights than employers?
Of course not. The First Amendment, to the Left, applies to everyone but conservatives.
You see, this stuff goes on constantly. Unions tell their members who to support and organize official events for them. Churches have been known to implore their congregations to vote one way or the other. UC isn’t the only system that has been known to quietly urge students and staff to vote one way or the other. And public schools routinely deploy children as political props and send scare letters to parents. Do you think Planned Parenthood isn’t warning its employees of the potential consequences of a Republican win? It’s only when an eeevil corporation does it, that it becomes sinister.
The scare tactics in this letter are not, in any way, novel. They are used constantly in politics and especially from the Left. Seniors are told they will lose Medicare; women are told they will lose abortion freedom; minorities are told they will lose … everything. The environmentalists tell us we will live in a scarred hellscape. It’s only when conservatives use scare tactics that it becomes manipulation.
We’ve seen this before when the Left whined about the CEO’s of Whole Foods and Papa John’s warning that higher taxes and regulations would lead to higher prices. When is it ever illegitimate to spell out what you believe to be the consequences of elections or policies? Why shouldn’t a corporation warn its employees of what it perceives as a political danger to their jobs? Is it better to be silent, watch a bad policy enacted and then fire your employees?
I don’t think the difference between these two candidates is as dramatic as described in the letter, but that’s neither here nor there. The fact is that all organizations routinely tell their members who to vote for. All political interests routinely warn people about what they see as the likely consequence of a bad election or bad legislation. Complaining about it is high-test bullshit born, as Bainbridge points out, of raging anti-corporatism.