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Election extortion unchecked

Rick Outzen Florida Voices
Published:   |   Updated: May 7, 2013 at 06:56 PM

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Four years ago, companies were banned from telling their employees how to vote. Today they can, thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United decision in 2010.

Citizens United, a nonprofit corporation, wanted to advertise a film critical of Hillary Clinton during television broadcasts, which the Federal Elections Commission blocked because McCain-Feingold Act outlawed corporations and unions from electioneering.

By a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court ruled in 2010 the First Amendment prohibited the government from restricting independent political expenditures by corporations and unions.

The ruling also overturned laws banning employers from discussing political opinions with their employees — something which the GOP and Mitt Romney have taken full advantage.

Last June, the Republican presidential candidate told employers at the National Federation of Independent Business over a conference call to talk with their employers about which candidate is best for their business.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has launched its Vote for Jobs 2012 campaign encouraging businesses to distribute political ads in the payroll envelopes of their employees. The inserts, which cost 20-cents apiece and are available in Spanish, have images of pickup trucks, Little League baseball teams and work belts.

David Siegel, the founder and chief executive of Florida-based Westgate Resorts got the message. He sent a memo to his 7,000 employees that told them that another four years under President Barack Obama put their jobs at risk.

In another case, employees of a Pensacola Taco Bell got an insert with their paychecks that said their hours might possibly be reduced if the Affordable Healthcare Act isn't repealed, one of Romney's top campaign promises.

The owner, Southeast QSR LLC, which owns 58 Taco Bell franchises in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi and South Carolina, said that the new health-care law would cost $2,000 per employee who worked 30 hours or more.

It directed the employee to the website

Imagine the pressure on these employees to conform to their bosses' wishes.

I wonder how many Romney bumper stickers got added to cars in the company parking lots to curry favor and bonuses.

Secret ballots are intended to ensure voting takes place without threats and intimidation. However, these payroll inserts and memos from bosses are not-so-veiled threats and clearly intended to intimidate employees into voting in step with their employers. This needs to stop to prevent further erosion of our democracy.

Rick Outzen is the publisher/editor of Pensacola's Independent News.

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