The Koch Brothers sent political mailers to 50,000 employees just before the 2010 elections

Sometimes it feels like every day, the grip is tightening. The Koch Brothers, those Randian freedom lovers, are now hard-selling their 50,000 employees into voting “correctly” (my formulation). A new article at The Nation:

On the eve of the November midterm elections, Koch Industries sent an urgent letter to most of its 50,000 employees advising them on whom to vote for and warning them about the dire consequences to their families, their jobs and their country should they choose to vote otherwise.

The Nation obtained the Koch Industries election packet for Washington State—which included a cover letter from its president and COO, David Robertson; a list of Koch-endorsed state and federal candidates; and an issue of the company newsletter, Discovery, full of alarmist right-wing propaganda.

Legal experts interviewed for this story called the blatant corporate politicking highly unusual, although no longer skirting the edge of legality, thanks to last year’s Citizens United Supreme Court decision, which granted free speech rights to corporations.

“Before Citizens United, federal election law allowed a company like Koch Industries to talk to officers and shareholders about whom to vote for, but not to talk with employees about whom to vote for,” explains Paul M. Secunda, associate professor of law at Marquette University. But according to Secunda, who recently wrote in The Yale Law Journal Online about the effects of Citizens United on political coercion in the workplace, the decision knocked down those regulations. “Now, companies like Koch Industries are free to send out newsletters persuading their employees how to vote. They can even intimidate their employees into voting for their candidates.” Secunda adds, “It’s a very troubling situation.”

Intimidation indeed; consider the possibilities.

You can see a PDF of the election packet here, courtesy of The Nation. It starts, “Dave Robertson, President and CEO, Dear co-worker”. Right. (“It’s you’n’me, bro, we’re in this together. You from way down there; and me from way up here. Oops, rub harder; looks like you missed a spot.”)

Expect more of this, as boundaries get pushed and pushed again. Sometimes I think we’re making good on the visions of hack 1950s sci-fi authors, who thought distopia was corporations taking over the world, a kind of Outland vision of what lies ahead. And sometimes I don’t think I’m wrong.


Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States. Click here for more. Follow him on Twitter @Gaius_Publius and Facebook.

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