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Some companies telling employees how to vote

5:20 PM, Oct 18, 2012   |    comments
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By Lisa Sylvester

(CNN) - Some companies are getting political with letters telling employees to vote for Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan.

Employees of Koch Industries received a voter information packet this month. Included was a letter from the company's President David Robertson, warning that if there's a second Obama term, "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."

Similar e-mails have been distributed at other companies.

The CEO of Westgate Resorts, David Siegel, putting it bluntly: "If any new taxes are levied on me, or my company, as our current president plans, I will have no choice but to reduce the size of this company."

The head of the Murray Energy Corporation blamed the Obama Administration for recent layoffs at his company.

"Yes, ma'am, President Obama is responsible entirely for the closure of that mine and the loss of those jobs," said Robert Murray.

The liberal Center for American Progress calls these charges and e-mails by CEOs outrageous.

"You have the employer holding all the cards responsible for that person's job, pressuring really threatening their employee to vote a certain way, it's very undemocratic," said Igor Volsky

But Governor Mitt Romney, speaking to independent business owners, has urged them to carry on to win over votes.

"Nothing illegal about you talking to your employees about what you believe is best for the business because I think that will figure in ot their election decision, their voting decision and of course doing that with your family and kids as well," said Romney.

It is legal for a boss to tell an employee how he or she thinks their employees ought to vote.

"The courts would view this as just political speech, an expression of political opinion and frankly going back to the days when the founding fathers were writing the Constitution, the one thing they really enshrined in that Constitution was political free speech," said CNN legal contributor Paul Callan.

But the e-mails, particularly the one from Westgate, have been criticized.

David Siegel is a billionaire who gained notoriety for building the country's biggest house in Florida - 90,000 square feet. It was the subject of the documentary Queen of Versailles. To say that he'll be forced to lay off employees if he has to pay more in taxes is a hard sell for some.

"You see someone who lives in a very large house, very opulent house, obviously very rich, telling his employees, middle class Americans, maybe lower class Americans how to vote, it kind of harkens back to feudal times. Maybe to the dark ages when you had one feudal lord telling everybody else how to behave," said Volsky.

We reached out to the companies, but none of them returned CNN's calls.

In response to news stories about its letter to employees, Koch Industries recently issued a statement that said in part, it was not an attempt to intimidate employees.


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