The immediate concern in the wake of the Citizens United decision was that corporate funding would play such a dominant role in election campaigns as to trounce all other interest groups (as if that hadn’t already occurred in large measure).
But a story in The Nation, “Big Brothers: Thought Control at Koch,” by Mark Ames and Mike Elk points to a second channel of influence: major employers pressuring their staff to vote for the company’s pet candidates. Never mind that most workers live in an employment at will regime, so the business has no loyalty to the troops, or that business and wage slave interests are seldom aligned. As the Nation piece depicts, employees of Koch entities like Georgia Pacific are repeatedly told who they should vote for. This is new: before Citizens United, companies could only proselytize its officers and shareholders.
Consider what passes the smell test now:
The election packet starts with a letter from Robertson dated October 4, 2010. It read: “As Koch company employees, we have a lot at stake in the upcoming election. Each of us is likely to be affected by the outcome on Nov. 2. That is why, for the first time ever, we are mailing our newest edition of Discovery and several other helpful items to the home address of every U.S. employee” [emphasis added].
For most Koch employees, the “helpful items” included a list of Koch-approved candidates, which was presented on a separate page labeled “Elect to Prosper.” A brief introduction to the list reads: “The following candidates in your state are supported by Koch companies and KOCHPAC, the political action committee for Koch companies. We believe these candidates will best advance policies supporting economic freedom.”…
After guiding employees on how they should vote, the mailer devoted the rest of the material to the sort of indoctrination one would expect from an old John Birch Society pamphlet (the Koch Brothers’ father, Fred Koch, was a founding member of the JBS). It offers an apocalyptic vision of the company’s free-market struggle for liberty against the totalitarian forces of European Union bureaucrats and deficit-spending statists….
With Citizens United, it seems, the country is heading back to the days of court-enforced corporatocracy. Already, workers at a Koch subsidiary in Portland, Oregon, are complaining about being subjected to political and ideological propaganda. Employees at Georgia-Pacific warehouses in Portland say the company encourages them to read Charles Koch’s The Science of Success: How Market-Based Management Built the World’s Largest Private Company and to attend ideological seminars in which Koch management preaches their bosses’ “market-based management” philosophy.
Travis McKinney, an employee at a Portland Georgia-Pacific distribution center, says, “They drill into your head things like ‘The 10 Guiding Principles of Koch Industries.’ They even stamp the ten principles on your time card.”
The article provided a sample of one of the mailings, so you can see for yourself how prominent the voting recommendations are.
Koch Industries isn’t alone in these efforts. Dave Dayen reported that employees of a McDonald’s franchise in Ohio were given instructions to vote Republican in a local election, along with their paycheck. And if you think that suggestion was already none-too-subtle, the insert said:
If the right people are elected, we will be able to continue with raises and benefits at or above our present levels. If others are elected, we will not.
This sort of thing does violate Ohio election law, and other states are apparently taking steps to limit election propagandizing by employers. But they have yet to be tested in court.
In the meantime, welcome to the ever more intrusive thought police.