Hijacking the private sector: the GOP’s final frontier

By Brendan Smith

With the election a day away and the next commander in chief in the hands of the elusive undecided voter, the left and right are in an all-out fist-fight for the White House.

And clearly the old saying stays true: all is fair in love and war.

Fresh off a well-crafted voter infringement scheme poised as a “crackdown on voter fraud,” the GOP can add on another battle tactic to its resume: persuasion from


the private sector.

In the past few weeks, the country’s top CEOs have sent their employees emails and letters laying out the consequences if President Barack Obama is re-elected.

These businessmen have been explicit in stating that if Obama gets a second term, employees can see an increase in their health insurance premiums, adecrease in their pay and a total lack of  compay security.

You might wonder how we got to this point. And how is it legal?

In August, United Public Workers’ actions were brought to the attention of the Federal

Electoral Commission.

In the complainant, a former UPW employee alleged that UPW coerced her and other union employees to provide support for Hawaii First Congressional District Democratic candidate Colleen Hanabusa’s candidacy in a special congressional election May 22, 2010.

The worker said she and another employee were fired when they refused to comply with a UPW request to sign-wave, phone bank, canvass and contribute to Hanabusa’s campaign.

UPW argued that, under Citizens United v. FEC, the company could compel its employees to participate. UPW said Citizens United established that a labor union may engage in political activity, and that nothing prohibits it from requiring participation by union employees in this activity.

The FEC sided with UPW and said the union’s efforts did not include making contributions to, or fundraising on behalf of a federal candidate. UPW’s independent use of its paid workforce to campaign for a federal candidate post-Citizen’s United was not contemplated by Congress and, consequently, is not prohibited by either the Act or Commission regulations.

The FEC finalized this decision on Aug. 21., but an Ohio coal company had already put this idea into effect exactly on week earlier.

On Aug. 14, a rally for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney was held at the Murray Energy Century coal mine in Beallsville, Ohio. Some 3,000 employees attended the rally but not completely out of their support for Gov. Romney.

In the weeks following the rally, workers contacted local radio station WWVA stating the mine was closed the day of the rally because of security and safety concerns and workers were given an unpaid day off.

They also said they were present at the rally because they weren’t sure of their job security if they did not attend.

When asked about the allegations on-air, Murray’s COO Robert Moore said “attendance was mandatory, but no one was forced to attend the event.”

Company CEO Robert Murray, one of the largest independent operators of coal mines in the United States, has made no secret about his Republican party fondness. Murray’s estate has donated more than $900,000 to Republican candidates in the last two years, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

In an interview with the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Murray said, “Nobody knows who attended (the rally) and who didn’t. But I can tell you this: We had 3,000 people there. It was a great day. Our people enjoyed it. 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.”

Murray is just one of the private sector princes urging their employees to go Mitt or go home, literally.

David Siegel, CEO of Westgate Resorts, the largest privately held timeshare company in the world, sent an email to his 7,000 employees telling them to vote for Romney.

In an interview with Businessweek, Siegel said, “I’ve always looked out for (my employees’) best interests.

We’re like a family. They’re like my children, and I’m the Jewish mother telling them to eat their spinach and vote for Romney.”

A truly heartwarming metaphor.

In a memo to his 1,000 employees, Arthur Allen, CEO of ASG Software Solutions, said, “I can tell you if the U.S. re-elects President Obama, our chances of staying independent are slim to none … If we fail as a nation to make the right choice on Nov. 6, and we lose our independence as a company, I don’t want to hear any complaints regarding the fallout that will most likely come.”

Tell them like it is, Arthur. Either vote Republican or start clearing out your cubicle.

And these men aren’t alone in their messages. Similar warnings have been penned by Richard Lacks, CEO of Michigan-based Lacks Enterprises; Scott Farmer, CEO of uniform manufacturer Cintas; the right-wing’s dynamic duo – the Koch brothers, who head the second largest privately owned company in the United States.

In the final few hours of an election season containing some of the most concentrated competitive tactics, the next president is now in hands of the undecided voter. All these CEOs are stuffing those hands with memos on what is certain to happen if the vote doesn’t go in their favor. It’s what businessmen do — a bit of provisional planning, budget cutting and firing. And that’s not so wrong, right?

Nothing is more American than exploiting our strongest assets: intimidation, influence, networking and, above all, capitalism.