Friday, April 22, 2011

Koch Industries Employees Votes: Be Very Afraid

Of all the stories that I have read that highlight America's implosion as a democracy and the eroding of citizens rights, this surely has to be one of the scariest things I have ever come across. And you don't need to be an American to appreciate the implications and dangers of this blatant economic blackmail perpetrated by Koch Industries on its employees in pursuit of its own political ends. It is scary stuff indeed.

Thought Control: Right-Wing Koch Brothers Caught Telling Thousands of Employees How to Vote

AMY GOODMAN: We turn now, though, to an exposé just published in The Nation magazine that raises alarming questions about the ability of corporations to influence their employees’ voting decisions. In an article titled "Big Brothers: Thought Control at Koch," Mark Ames and Mike Elk report on an urgent letter that Koch Industries sent to most of its 50,000 employees on the eve of the November elections. The letter advised them on whom to vote for and warned them of the dire consequences to their families, their jobs and their country, should they choose to vote otherwise. Koch Industries is run by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch. They have helped bankroll the Tea Party movement and dozens of other right-wing causes.

Koch Industries and other corporations are legally allowed to pressure their workers to adopt their political views at the ballot box because of last year’s Citizens United Supreme Court decision. The ruling granted free speech rights to corporations and effectively removed regulations preventing employers from politically manipulating their workers. In practice, employers can also fire workers who refuse to attend political seminars or dare to voice their dissenting opinions too loudly.

For more, we’re joined by the authors of the exposé, Mike Elk and Mark Ames. Both are contributing editors to The Nation. Mike joins us from Washington, D.C., Mark Ames from here in New York.

Mark, let’s begin with you. Start off with the documents that you got.

MARK AMES: Well, as we were investigating the story, it was Mike Elk, my partner on the story, who got a hold of this newsletter that was sent out. It was October 4th of last year, and it was sort of an election packet, dated October 4th, with a cover letter from the CEO and president of Koch Industries, which is the head of this giant conglomerate, saying that "for the first time we feel that these elections"—that is, last November’s elections—"are so urgent, and we’re in such a dire situation, that we’re actually sending out this entire voting packet, including a list of candidates in federal and local elections that we believe, we urge you, or we strongly recommend that you vote for." And, of course, most of the candidates—I mean, of the 19 candidates on the list that we obtained, which was for the Washington State elections, of 19 candidates, 16 were Republican and, you know, very Tea Party Republican, and of the three Democrats for local races, two were from a Democratic—a right-wing faction of the Democratic Party called the "Roadkill Caucus." I guess, you know, this is like their Blue Dog, but Roadkill. I don’t know who the roadkill is in this case.

And then, along with that, there was a bunch of really pretty bizarre and disturbing sort of John Birch Society-like propaganda about, you know, just a paranoid vision of the world, in which free markets and freedom are constantly under attack from E.U. bureaucrats and the liberal media and all this other stuff, and sort of trying to warn or trying to advise their workers, you know, who to vote for, what to do. And on top of it, one of the most bizarre parts was a sort of an essay from Charles Koch—he’s the head of the company—telling workers who he thought the best president of the 20th century was. And he named Warren B. Harding and Calvin Coolidge, but he named them sort of as one president, one administration, as the best president of the 20th century. And he blamed Herbert Hoover for the Crash and for starting socialism in America. It’s the most bizarre thing you’ve ever read in your life.

AMY GOODMAN: Mike Elk, you are a labor reporter. Talk about the significance of the letters being sent out to the employees of Koch Industries around the country. More and twenty minute video.

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