Writing today in the Nation, Mark Ames and Mike Elk reveal that Koch Industries mailed a letters to 50,000 employees instructing them on who to vote for in the 2010 midterm elections. The Koch packet given to employees included candidate names, a letter from a Koch lobbyist, and a right-wing screed from the company and the Washington Examiner, an outlet owned by Phil Anschutz, a billionaire who is close to the Koch family. (View a copy of the packet here.)
Corporate coercion of employees is perhaps the most profound repercussion from the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision last year. The Nation spoke to several law experts who noted that “Citizens United frees Koch Industries and other corporations to propagandize their employees with their political preferences.” Before the decision, businesses were prohibited from instructing their employees to vote a certain way.
Not only was Koch active in helping push the Citizens United decision (several of the groups filing amicus briefs supporting unlimited corporate spending were funded by Koch), but Koch actively planned for exploiting the decision. When we exposed a memo outlining the 2010 secret Koch political strategy meeting with fellow right-wing donors, we noted that the summit included a presentation from Karl Crow. Crow is a Koch operative who had penned a memo calling for corporations to exploit Citizens United and aggressively use “employees, vendors, and customers” as tools for advancing business interests in the political sphere:
She predicts the Citizens United decision will correct the law’s imbalance and open the door for businesses to educate “their employees, vendors and customers about candidates and ofﬁceholders whose philosophies and voting records would destroy or permanently damage America’s free enterprise system.” For many nonproﬁts the Citizens United decision creates a host of new political opportunities in the 2010 elections and beyond. Under the ruling, trade associations like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, classiﬁed as a 501(c)(6) group by the IRS, and 501(c)(4) grassroots advocacy groups like Americans for Prosperity can now use general treasury funds to produce communications materials opposing or supporting speciﬁc candidates and legislation. In a memorandum Mitchell outlined the new communications possibilities for 501(c)(4)s and 501(c)(6)s. They include voter guides, candidate questionnaires, voting records and public advertising.
Currently, Crow is heading up a vast new Koch-funded project called “Themis” to mobilize voters for the 2012 election cycle.
ThinkProgress has covered this disturbing trend of corporate political coercion since 2009. While researching the health insurance industry’s efforts to kill health reform, we discovered that a consulting firm called Democracy, Data and Communications (DDC) that actually specializes in helping large corporations organize their employees into mini-lobbyists. DDC currently consults for Koch, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, several banks, the tobacco industry, and health insurance companies.