Hidden Fallout from Citizens United Case: Employers Allowed to Badger Employees with Election Propaganda

Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Charles and David Koch

The Citizens United court ruling did more than unleash the wealthy when it comes to spending unlimited sums on elections. It also gave them the legal authority to badger their employees about whom they should vote for.


When the U.S. Supreme Court overturned longstanding limits on contributions, it nullified as well rules by the Federal Election Commission that strictly limited how employers could directly express their opinions on campaigns and candidates.


Prior to the 2010 Citizens United ruling, employers could only solicit campaign donations from rank-and-file employees twice a year and such contributions could remain anonymous. In addition, partisan communications with rank-and-file employees was prohibited. All that changed with the Citizens United ruling. Federal law still does not allow employers to threaten employees if they support the “wrong” candidate.


However, in the words of Paul Secunda of the Yale Law Journal, no “federal law exists that prevents corporations from requiring, on pain of termination, that employees attend one-sided partisan speeches, rallies, videos, or other events that advocate the election of specific candidates or parties. Nor is there any law that prohibits corporations from requiring that supervisors engage their subordinates in express advocacy conversations during work time and requiring that employees participate in such conversations…. nothing prohibits employers from requiring employees to participate in one-sided political propaganda events. There is no requirement that opposing candidates be offered equal time, or even that employees themselves be permitted to ask questions or voice their own opinions.”


The Koch brothers (David and Charles) are a prime example of corporate leaders who have taken advantage of this situation, telling their 50,000 employees that they support Mitt Romney, while bashing the Obama administration.


“If we elect candidates who want to spend hundreds of billions in borrowed money on costly new subsidies for a few favored cronies, put unprecedented regulatory burdens on businesses, prevent or delay important new construction projects, and excessively hinder free trade, then many of our more than 50,000 U.S. employees and contractors may suffer the consequences, including higher gasoline prices, runaway inflation, and other ills,” the Kochs wrote in a letter to workers.

-Noel Brinkerhoff, David Wallechinsky


To Learn More:

Koch Sends Pro-Romney Mailing to 45,000 Employees While Stifling Workplace Political Speech (by Mike Elk, In These Times)

Addressing Political Captive Audience Workplace Meetings in the Post-Citizens United Environment (by Paul M. Secunda, Yale Law Journal)

Coal Miners Complain They were Forced to Attend Romney Rally…and then Lost a Day’s Pay for not Working (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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