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Thursday, Nov. 8, 2012 04:13 pm

The corporate mad dogs of Citizens United

As feared, our people’s democratic authority has been dogged nearly to death by the hounds of money in this election go ’round, thanks to the Supreme Court’s reckless decree in the now infamous Citizens United case.

A little-reported consequence of the malevolent decision: It has unleashed mad-dog corporate bosses to tell employees how to vote.

Prior to that 2010 c ourt ruling, top executives were barred by federal law from using corporate funds to instruct, induce, intimidate or otherwise push workers to support particular candidates. No more, thanks to the five Supremes.

For example, CEO David Siegel of Westgate Resorts, a major peddler of time-share schemes, warned his 7,000-strong workforce against voting for Obama. To do so, he wrote in a letter to each of them, would “threaten your job.”

Likewise, Dave Robertson, president of the Koch brothers’ industrial empire, notified 30,000 workers that they would suffer assorted “ills” if they helped reelect Obama. In case that message was too subtle, Robertson helpfully included a slate-card of Koch-approved candidates for them to take into the polling booth.

Of course, corporate chieftains say they’re not making threats – just suggestions. As Boss Siegel disingenuously put it: “There’s no way I can pressure anybody. I’m not in the voting booth with them.”

But, of course, he can see (or be told by watchful managers) if any employee dares to sport an Obama campaign button, bumper sticker or lawn sign. And he can find out if any rebellious worker has gone to a Democratic Party event or made a donation to Obama (now there’s a chilling irony – under Citizens United, Siegel can secretly shovel a million bucks or more straight out of the corporate treasury into an anti-Obama campaign group, but a regular person’s $200 donation has to be disclosed for all to see, including the boss).

For a rich example of unbridled boss power in today’s political process, harken back to August, when Mitt Romney appeared on a stage with a group of Ohio coal miners arrayed behind him. “I tell ya,” the clueless candidate cheerfully exclaimed, “you’ve got a great boss.”

That would be Robert Murray, CEO of Murray Energy, who’d previously held a $1.7 million fundraiser for Romney. Murray miners didn’t quite share Romney’s enthusiasm for their “great boss.”

One reason for their grumpiness is that they hadn’t volunteered to be there, but had been directed by Bossman Bob to attend. Also, Bob was docking them a day’s pay for “taking the day off” to serve as stage prop.

As uncovered in an investigative report by The New Republic, such involuntary support is routinely demanded from salaried employees of Murray Energy. They get hit up again and again for donations to Romney and such other designated candidates.

Murray himself sends dunning letters to employees’ homes, specifying to each one how much to give and instructing them to send their checks directly to corporate headquarters. Staffers there maintain a list of those who did as told – and those who didn’t. “If you don’t contribute, your job’s at stake,” one employee bluntly explained. “There’s a lot of coercion,” he adds, “They will give you a call if you’re not giving.”

If you needed another reason to support a constitutional amendment overturning Citizens United, there it is.

Jim Hightower is national radio commentator, columnist and author.
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