The Kochs’ other election propaganda

THE KOCHS’ OTHER ELECTION PROPAGANDA…. The infamous Koch brothers were responsible for financing all kinds of election propaganda in advance of the 2010 midterms, mainly through its campaign attack operation, Americans for Prosperity.

But there was another level of election propaganda we didn’t see. It was directed at the far-right billionaires’ employees.

On the eve of the November midterm elections, Koch Industries sent an urgent letter to most of its 50,000 employees advising them on whom to vote for and warning them about the dire consequences to their families, their jobs and their country should they choose to vote otherwise.

The Nation obtained the Koch Industries election packet for Washington State — which included a cover letter from its president and COO, David Robertson; a list of Koch-endorsed state and federal candidates; and an issue of the company newsletter, Discovery, full of alarmist right-wing propaganda.

Legal experts interviewed for this story called the blatant corporate politicking highly unusual, although no longer skirting the edge of legality, thanks to last year’s Citizens United Supreme Court decision, which granted free speech rights to corporations. […]

“This sort of election propaganda seems like a new development,” says UCLA law professor Katherine Stone, who specializes in labor law and who reviewed the Koch Industries election packet for The Nation. “Until Citizens United, this sort of political propaganda was probably not permitted. But after the Citizens United decision, I can imagine it’ll be a lot more common, with restrictions on corporations now lifted.”

I remember an incident from October in which an individual McDonald’s franchise owner in Ohio included voting instructions to his employees with their paychecks. This was a fairly big story, and reeked of voter intimidation, leading to a written apology.

But that was just one fast-food place with a modest staff; Koch Industries is something else entirely.

A month before Election Day, Koch’s COO told company employees, “As Koch company employees, we have a lot at stake in the upcoming election. Each of us is likely to be affected by the outcome on Nov. 2. That is why, for the first time ever, we are mailing our newest edition of Discovery and several other helpful items to the home address of every U.S. employee.” This included a list of candidates, nearly all Republicans, the company believed would “advance policies supporting economic freedom.”

How “helpful.”

Employees were also told if the chosen candidates lost, “the overwhelming majority of the American people will be much worse off if government overspending is allowed to bankrupt the country.”

The Nation talked to some experts who could think of no modern examples of similar corporate electioneering, but the consensus seemed to be that, post Citizens United, this is legally permissible.