This has a real un-American feel to it, easier to see if you leave out for a moment whose side is encouraging who and just consider the phenomenon... Very unwise for employers to tell employees how to vote By Gordon Lafer | October 25, 2012 This piece originally appeared in The Hillâs Congress Blog. "Recent weeks have brought a rash of reports of something that used to be unthinkable in America: employers telling their workers who to vote for. "First, Republican billionaire and Westgate Resorts CEO David Siegel informed his 8,000 employees that âanother four years of the same presidential administrationâ would âthreaten your job.â Then, Koch Industries wrote its 45,000 employees that âif we elect candidates who â¦ put unprecedented regulatory burdens on businesses,â employees âmay suffer the consequences.â "The Kochs may be ideological extremists, but their tactics are quickly becoming mainstream. Last week, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce launched a campaign encouraging businesses to distribute political ads in the payroll envelopes of their employees. And a newly surfaced tape records Mitt Romney himself urging employers to âmake it very clear to your employees what you believe is in the best interest of your enterprise and therefore their job and their future in the upcoming election.â "These are the kind of banana-republic tactics that our government regularly condemns when they occur abroad. The Bush administration, for instance, rejected Ukrainian elections as illegitimate, in part because international observers found that managers of state-owned enterprises had âinstructed their subordinates to vote for [the ruling party].â "One step beyond even the Kochs is GOP mega-donor Bob Murray, who required employees at an Ohio coal mine to attend a Romney campaign event. The resulting photo-op could have been at home in the old East Germanyâcandidate standing before a crowd of miners, replete with banner reading âCoal Country Stands With Mitt,â with no notice that miners were attending under the direction of their boss, forced to give up a dayâs pay in order to serve as human props. Again, we routinely condemn such charades when carried out by foreigners. The Bush administration criticized Armeniaâs elections, for instance, after observers reported that âfactory workers â¦ were instructed to attend the incumbentâs rallies.â But what we reject for Armenians and Ukrainians, the business lobbies now want to institute at home. "An employee whose boss tells them how to vote may still ignore this advice in the privacy of a voting booth. What they wonât do, however, is display a button or bumper sticker, write a letter to the editor, or be seen attending a rally of the opposing party. This strikes at the very heart of democracy. Elections are only âfree and fairâ if voters are free to speak out, write in, and publicly support the candidate of their choice, without fear for their livelihoods. "This principle is not only enshrined in international standards; it is a fundamental norm of American democracy. When the Founders set about designing the worldâs first democracy, they were particularly concerned that employees might be subject to the undue influence of those who controlled their economic fate. âIn the main,â Alexander Hamilton warned, âpower over a manâs support is power over his will.â Constitutional author Gouverneur Morris likewise worried that those who âreceive their bread from their employerâ would be pressured to âsell [their votes] to the rich.â "This concern spawned a host of federal and state regulations specifically aimed at insulating voters from political pressure in the workplace. A dozen states, for example, ban employers from putting political messages in employeesâ paychecks. Others have laws like Ohioâs that prohibit employers from predicting that âif any particular candidate is elected â¦ work in the establishment will cease in whole or in part.â "What sets democratic elections apart from the sham votes of authoritarian regimes is not secret ballotsâafter all, even Saddam Hussein had secret ballotsâbut the ability of all voters to participate in what the Supreme Court termed âuninhibited, robust and wide-open debateâ without fear of retaliation. "In striking down limits on political advertising, the Supreme Courtâs Citizens United decision alsoâperhaps inadvertentlyâdeleted the statutory language that prevented corporations from forcing political propaganda on employees. The GOP and corporate lobbies now want to exploit this loophole to turn us into a country where only the independently wealthy are truly free to speak out, while the rest of us have to look over our shoulders before signing a petition or wearing the âwrongâ button. "Itâs hard to imagine a worse direction for the country, or a more important place for Republicans and Democrats to come together in defending the fundamentals of our democracy."