Mixing politics and business

The Citizens United ruling makes voter intimidation legal.

Daily Editorial Board

Until the landmark Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, private companies were largely banned from using profits and other resources to directly influence political campaigns and elections. However, the decision by the Supreme Court in 2010 overturned many of those restrictions, now allowing companies to spend unlimited amounts of money on campaign commercials and other independent expenditures.

 Leaders of companies are also now able to send letters to their employees, urging them to vote for a specific candidate and going as far as saying that massive layoffs may occur if the wrong candidate is elected. David Siegel, CEO of Westgate Resorts, did exactly that. In a letter to his 7,000 employees, he said that if President Barack Obama was re-elected, it might jeopardize the future of the company. Several other corporate leaders, such as Koch Industries President Dave Robertson, have issued similar statements to workers.

 Leaders of companies should not be allowed to influence the voting decisions of employees out of fear for their job. While federal law makes it illegal to force or intimidate voters into selecting a certain candidate, the irresponsible Citizens United decision blurs the line concerning how far companies are allowed to go in their political activism.

 For having so much weight, company endorsements can be flawed from the start. Company executives themselves are not able to know what an elected official’s future decisions will be, not to mention how they will impact the company itself. Also, corporate interests and worker interests often conflict, so there is no certainty that the candidate an executive recommends will work on behalf of the employees.

Congress should work to pass a law that explicitly bans company leaders from sending candidate-endorsement memos that urge employees to vote a certain way lest they lose their job.