(NEW YORK) MintPress – The latest national poll shows President Barack Obama with a slight edge over Republican nominee Mitt Romney, but its results largely confirm what other surveys have reported over the last week: The race is very close, with Obama retaining a narrow but persistent edge in key electoral vote battleground states.
In the past couple of years, in the runup to the November election, the GOP has clearly attempted to sway the outcome by imposing voter ID laws and other measures to restrict registered voters and disenfranchise groups that tend to vote Democratic.
Now, Republican-affiliated corporate executives are taking it one step further, trying to control what their workers do at the ballot box.
The latest to join the fray: David and Charles Koch. According to an investigation carried out by In These Times, the Koch brothers allegedly sent out a mailing to 50,000 employees earlier this month offering information as to how to vote in the presidential election.
They have long been known for their conservative political views, and much has already been said about the hundreds of millions of dollars that the pair has donated to right-wing candidates and causes.
Included in the packet was a letter dated Oct. 1 from Koch Industries president and Chief Operating Officer David Robertson.
In it, Robertson wrote: “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.
“It is essential that we are all informed and educated voters. Our future depends on it,” he continued.
In other words, your future depends on a Romney victory.
A flyer naming 14 Koch-endorsed candidates, all Republican, was also enclosed in the packet, with Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan at the top of the list.
Jumping on the bandwagon
Revelations of the Koch brothers’ attempts to govern their employees’ political choices comes after news of other CEOs trying to influence the votes of those who work for them.
In August, Richard Lacks, head of Michigan-based Lacks Enterprises, a car-part manufacturer, urged his employees to opt for Romney on the ballot; not doing so, he suggested, could lead to higher taxes and lower pay.
“It is important that in November you vote to improve your standard of living and that will be through smaller government and less government,” Lacks wrote in a letter that also announced a bonus for the company’s 2,300 employees.
Lacks also warned that Obamacare could raise the company’s health insurance costs, which he said he would pass on to employees.
Nearly two-thirds of employers expect higher health benefit costs as a result of Obamacare, according to a recent survey, and Papa Johns CEO John Schnatter, for one, has said he plans to raise the price of the company’s pizza to compensate.
Also in August, the Murray Energy Company, the largest privately owned coal company in the country, reportedly forced coal miners at the Century Mine in Beallsville, Ohio, to give up a day’s worth of pay to show up at a rally with Romney, according to the local news radio station WWVA. Apparently, some workers feared not attending could cost them their jobs.
Then, last Thursday, the New Republic reported that Murray pressured his employees to donate to Republican politicians including Mitt Romney as well as to Murray Energy’s pro-Republican political action committee.
It’s not the first time that Murray has attempted to intimidate workers. In 2010, for example, he wrote a letter to employees saying that if they did not donate to Murray Energy’s PAC, “the coal industry will be eliminated and so will your job.”
Let them eat cake
Earlier this month, David Siegel, founder and CEO of giant timeshare company Westgate Resorts, came under fire for an e-mail to employees insisting that the president’s re-election would threaten their employment status.
The letter appeared to be a veiled threat to his employees, saying that they could vote for either candidate, but that if Obama wins, they will likely lose their jobs.
In his e-mail, Siegel stated, “If any new taxes are levied on me, or my company, as our current President plans, I will have no choice but to reduce the size of this company. Rather than grow this company I will be forced to cut back. This means fewer jobs, less benefits and certainly less opportunity for everyone.
“So, when you make your decision to vote, ask yourself, which candidate understands the economics of business ownership and who doesn’t? Whose policies will endanger your job?” he continued.
“You see, I can no longer support a system that penalizes the productive and gives to the unproductive. My motivation to work and to provide jobs will be destroyed, and with it, so will your opportunities. If that happens, you can find me in the Caribbean sitting on the beach, under a palm tree, retired and with no employees to worry about.”
Siegel and his wife Jackie were the subject of a documentary released earlier this year by filmmaker Lauren Greenfield entitled, “Queen of Versailles.” It is based on a series of interviews with the couple about their attempt to build a 90,000 square foot mansion modeled after the famous French original.
In the film, he is shown struggling, and ultimately failing, to secure funding for Westgate’s Las Vegas high-rise resort, the Ph Towers Westgate.
According to Bloomberg Businessweek, Siegel also has a history of interfering in political elections, even claiming that he was the one who helped former President George W. Bush defeat Al Gore in 2000.
Siegel told the magazine, “When I saw a negative article about Gore, I put it in with the paychecks of my 8,000 employees. I had my managers do a survey on every employee. If they liked Bush, we made them register to vote. But not if they liked Gore … On Election Day, we made sure everyone who was voting for Bush got to the polls.”
Enough is enough
Now, the Ohio Democratic Party is fighting back, requesting a criminal investigation of Murray Energy.
The alleged coercion of political donations from employees may have “involved extortion, money laundering, racketeering, and other violations of Title 18 of the U.S. criminal code,” chairman Chris Redfern wrote in a letter to U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach.
At the same time, the liberal policy group ProgressOhio.org filed a Federal Election Commission complaint against Murray over the August Romney event and because those same miners appeared in a Romney campaign TV ad.
The group filed a second complaint alleging that the PAC failed to put a disclaimer on political signs it has erected in eastern Ohio that read, “STOP the WAR on COAL — FIRE OBAMA.”
Apparently, desperate times require desperate measures.