Citizens United

Employers let workers know their politics

     from The Columbus Dispatch Nov. 3, 2012

 Editor’s Note–this is a followup on the post “Who wants to buy your vote?”

Business owners say they’re doing what unions typically do

As Election Day nears, more business owners and executives are emphasizing to their employees how important it is to vote in the presidential race — and in some cases, at least subtly, who to vote for.

One Ohio business owner put information about Republican Mitt Romney in employees’ mailboxes and offered to reimburse the ticket price for employees who saw 2016: Obama’s America, a movie critical of Democratic President Barack Obama.

Another executive, Scott Farmer, CEO of Cintas Corp. based near Cincinnati, whose family members are major GOP financial contributors, blasted out an email to 30,000 employees last month in which he outlined his criticisms of “Obamacare” and the impact he believes it could have on his uniform-supply business.

“These decisions and policies could also have a significant impact on Cintas — on our ability to run our business effectively and efficiently, on our ability to attract and retain customers and on our ability to provide the level of benefits, opportunities, and development we believe our partners want, need and deserve.”

Business owners say what they’re doing is proper and is no different from what labor unions have done for years by keeping their members in line to vote, mostly for Democratic candidates.

Paul Secunda, a Marquette University professor specializing in labor and employment law, said there’s a fine line between an employer predicting what will happen if a specific candidate wins or loses, and threats aimed at steering employee votes. The line was smudged by the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in the Citizens United case, Secunda said. The ruling, which said the government could not prohibit political expenditures by corporations and unions, “emboldened employers,” he said.

When the head of a business tells employees that voting for or against a specific candidate might put their jobs at risk, “that’s a message that’s very hard for employees to ignore in this economy,” Secunda said.

Unions have a strong influence over their members’ voting habits, but “don’t have the ability to fire or discipline employees,” Secunda said.

Ohio has had a law on the books since 1953 prohibiting anyone from doing anything to “induce or compel” someone to “vote or refrain from voting for or against any person” in an election. It is punishable by a maximum $500 fine.

Tim Burga, president of the Ohio AFL-CIO, charged that what business leaders are doing “is inappropriate and in many cases intimidation. … Certainly, we talk to our members about the issues we think are important to them. But we don’t control their paychecks. It’s a different process altogether.”

Keith Lake, managing director of government affairs for the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber isn’t coordinating candidate-oriented political efforts, but individual businesses might be doing it on their own. “We want employees to know what this is doing to the bottom line,” Lake said.

A recent report by the Washington-based Business Industry Political Action Committee concluded that most employees aren’t concerned that employer communication could “adversely affect voting behavior.”Greg Casey, head of the BIPAC, said, “Employees have a right to know how policy and election outcomes will affect their jobs and their lives. Employers have a responsibility to share credible information with employees and let them make up their own minds.”

Portsmouth, Ohio, car dealer Tim Glockner recently told employees in an email that he didn’t want to tell them who to vote for. But he went on to say, “The choice for president seems quite simple. New taxes will hurt the health of our business. This could mean fewer jobs, less benefits and certainly less opportunity for everyone. When you make your decision ask yourself which candidate better understands the economics of business ownership?”


Employers let workers know their politics.

Who wants to buy your vote?



Whether you are a liberal or conservative, Democrat, Republican, or independent, I think there is one thing we can all agree on. We have had enough of the political ads!

If you live in a political battleground state as I do, you know how saturated the TV time has been with mostly negative ads for one presidential candidate or the other. I live in Ohio which many feel is the key state for determining the fate of the election. An NBC analysis showed more money spent on political ads in Ohio than anywhere else with $181 million so far, which is about one-fifth of the national total of $883 million. NBC is predicting the number will reach $1 billion dollars before the election is over.

In my hometown of Columbus, the capital and center of the state, we have been privileged to see 6,647 ads this month alone, or 333 a day! However, our friends in Cleveland are suffering even more as they are ranked as the No. 2 market in the state and Columbus is only No. 9.

Obama ads have been more plentiful but Romney isn’t far behind. During September the president and his supporters bought more than 800 spots in both Cleveland and Columbus markets according to the Wesleyan analysis. Since the beginning of October Obama’s campaign has spent more than $2.5 million with Columbus’s four main broadcast stations where Romney has spent less than $1 million; but the super PACs, American Crossroads and Restore Our Future, bought $800,000 in ads according to Federal Communications Commission data.

Negative ads saturate the airwaves

We have been inundated with ads all summer. Overall, there have been more than 915,000 presidential ads on broadcast and cable TV and radio since June. It seems that most of the ads are negative and the stats back this up with 91% of Romney’s ads negative compared to 85% for Obama. The Wesleyan study says that the tone of these ads is more negative than any other presidential cycle. It found that more than 60% of the ads were attack ads that appealed to anger, fear and even sadness more than enthusiasm and pride. Experts explain that polarization in this country has become so intense between the two parties that the candidates truly believe it is dangerous for the country if the other side wins and they feel they must point this out.

Results of Citizens United ruling

We have the Supreme Court and the Citizens United decision of 2010 to thank for this. Citizens United was a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case in which the Court held that the First Amendment prohibited the government from restricting independent political expenditures by corporations and unions. This decision has been credited with creating the super PACs, political action committees, which make no contributions to candidates or parties and so can accept unlimited contributions from individuals, corporations, and unions.

However, it took another decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, v. Federal Election Commission, to actually authorize the creation of super PACs. In March 2010, the D.C. Circuit ruled that individuals could make unlimited contributions to Super PACs, which supported individual candidates. This opened the door to massive donations for advertising campaigns essentially funded by single individuals but shielded in anonymity behind hastily drawn up corporations.

During this current presidential campaign, the first presidential election held after the Citizens United ruling, we are seeing the results of this ruling. Jack Gillum of the Associated Press reports that $5 million has been donated by a mysterious company to FreedomWorks for America to support conservative candidates for federal office. Tennessee business records show that Specialty Group filed its incorporation papers less than a week before its sizable donation to FreedomWorks. The Specialty Group has no website or listed products or services. The address given is that of a suburban Knoxville home. If you think this doesn’t concern you, think about it. Someone in another state is spending MILLIONS to influence your vote, whether it is for a local or national office.

Citizens United opens a second floodgate

The Citizens United ruling opened another floodgate of which you may not be aware. The decision also lifted the ban on employers advising employees on how to vote. Just after the ruling the Yale Law Journal said this case could let employers “Hold political captive audience workplace meetings with their employees,” and may even be able to “compel their employees to listen” to their political views at those meetings “on pain of termination.”

This is exactly what happened in Ohio with the Murray Energy coal miners. Murray Chief Operating Officer Robert Moore explained to WWVA radio that they were forced to show up at the mine owned by Murray Energy, a big donor to Republican causes. The mine was then closed that day for supposed safety and security reasons on the day Romney visited the mine, then they were docked a day’s pay after being ordered to show up. Moore said, “You figure it out: Attendance was mandatory, but no one was forced to attend the event.”

Company owner Robert Murray told the Cleveland Plain Dealer, “Nobody was ordered to attend.” But he added, “Barack Obama is destroying their lives, their livelihoods. These people are scared, and they came out in droves to see Mitt Romney, and that’s what it was all about.”

Georgia-Pacific, which employees 45,000 people, is distributing an employee packet about civic voter information with a letter from the chief operating officer warning: “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.”

However, not to appear too prejudicial, they added: voting decisions are “yours and yours alone.” Georgia-Pacific is owned by the billionaire Koch brothers. They have been funneling much of their own money and others and spending hundreds of millions of dollars to defeat Obama.

It is reported that many other businesses, large and small, are sending similar letters to their employees. A guest blogger for the Hill, which covers Capitol Hill, said that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (which is closely tied to the Republican party) is encouraging campaigns to put political ads in employees’ pay envelopes. Romney has encouraged employers to “make it very clear to your employees what you believe is in the best interest of your enterprise and therefore their job and their future in the upcoming election.”

It is good to know that in Ohio and some other states employers are not allowed to predict that “if any particular candidate is elected…work in the establishment will cease in whole or in part.”

Can Karl Rove and 17 angry white men buy the election?

Harry Reid, Senate Majority Leader, said, “My concern is that Karl Rove and 17 angry old white men are trying to buy the election. And that’s the truth,” Reid told the Review Journal. “You have Adelson (Las Vegas Sands casino billionaire), the Koch brothers (billionaires David and Charles). You have Simmons (billionaire) of Texas. They are literally trying to buy the election. Think about this. The day after the election, Karl Rove sits down and talks to…the 17 angry old white guys and says, ‘Hey listen guys, we just bought America. And we’re still rich.’ That’s the concern that we all have.”

All the above men are heavy contributors to super PACs supporting Romeny. Since the Citizens United ruling, individuals, corporations and unions are able to spend unlimited money attempting to influence the elections. This election alone they have spent $650 million.

Money equals speech

The Supreme Court said: “in our political system, money equals speech.” This appears to be the beginning of a very slippery slope where those with money can outright “buy” the election. It is up to us, the citizens, to trace the money trails and see who is trying to influence us and buy our vote. I don’t know about you but I consider myself an independent thinker and I look for the hidden agendas behind all the noise and slick advertisements. Study all the issues and candidates carefully before you enter the sanctity of the polling booth. Voting is a sacred right we Americans have so exercise your right and don’t let anyone buy your vote.,0,4157647.story