Koch Industries Coached Own Employees On How To Vote In November Election

The Nation magazine has revealed that Koch Industries sent a letter to most of its 50,000 employees before the U.S. midterm elections in November 2010 advising them on whom to vote for. In “Big Brothers: Thought Control at Koch,” Mark Ames and Mike Elk expose the urgent “election packet” [PDF] sent to tens of thousands of Koch employees complete with ample libertarian reading materials instructions and a list of eligible vote-worthy (conservative) candidates. 

As if this isn’t disturbing enough, the letter warns employees them
of the dire consequences to their families, their jobs and their country should they choose to vote otherwise. 

This story raises alarming concerns about corporations’ ability to influece the ways in which their employees vote. According to Amy Goodman at Democracy Now!, Koch is entirely within its legal right to pressure people in this manner because of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision. According to Goodman, 

“The ruling granted free speech rights to corporations and effectively removed regulations preventing employers from politically manipulating their workers. In practice, employers can also fire workers who refuse to attend political seminars or dare to voice their dissenting opinions too loudly.”

The Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling last year enabled corporations like Koch Industries to legally pressure their workers to adopt their political views. The brothers are two of the major bankrollers of the Tea Party movement and dozens of other right-wing causes, including recent attacks on public sector employees and unions in Wisconsin.

In an excerpt from the packet distributed on October 4, 2010, Koch explains how its vision of the principles of economic freedom and market-based policies:

are now being strongly opposed by many politicians (and their media allies) who favor ever-increasing government… Even worse, recent government actions are threatening to bankrupt the country… And the facts are that the overwhelming majority of the American people will be much worse off if government overspending is allowed to bankrupt the country.

The Koch propaganda essentially amounts to a threat to employees with the loss of their jobs if a government less likely to cater to business interests were elected. That’s a curious position since Koch Industries’ profits more than tripled in the last three years.

In a cover letter, Koch COO and president, Dave Robertson, implored the necessity of voting for candidates that will “best advance policies that create the economic conditions needed for employees and businesses such as ours to survive and prosper”. He uses this to justify including a list of candidates in federal and local elections that Koch management suggests employees “Elect to Prosper”. 

The Nation secured the list of Washington State candidates supported by Koch Industries.  Of the 19-candidate list, 16 were Republicans, many of whom were Tea Party candidates. Of the three Democratic candidates, two were from a right-wing faction of the Democratic Party called the “Roadkill Caucus.”

Among the list of vote-worthy State House candidates, Shelly Short recently testified at an EPA hearing that climate change science is far from settled, and that models that include solar activity and natural climate variability need to be discussed more thoroughly. Shelly Short and Joel Kretz authored a letter sent to the State Department of Ecology asking it to stop drafting rules regarding global warming pollution. 

Among State Senate candidate picks, Sen. Jerome Delvin introduced a bill that would withdraw Washington from participation in the Western Climate Initiative, a regional effort to reduce the pollution that contributes to climate change. According to the Delvin bill, state government should focus on jobs and the economy over environmental efforts during a recession. Short introduced a similar bill. 

Of the two candidates running in national contests, both were climate change denying Tea Party–friendly Republicans. The first was Dino Rossi, who questions the science of man-made climate change and (somehow) believes that massively expanding highways is a terrific way to reduce CO2 emissions.

Jaime Herrera-Beutler, who ran in the Republican primary as a moderate but later affiliated with the Tea Party, voted in favour of bill HR 910 denying the EPA the authority to rein in global warming pollution, and challenging the science upon which those public protections are based. Herrera-Beutler also voted against an amendment stating Congress accepts EPA’s “scientific findings that climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for public health and welfare.” 

Head over to The Nation to read more. 

Image Credit: Exiled Online



The article in The Nation Magazine contains a series of inaccurate and irresponsible claims about Koch Industries and its outreach to employees regarding the endorsement of individual political candidates. The October 2010 letter to employees clearly stated,

” …deciding who to vote for is a decision that is yours and yours alone, based on the factors that are important to you. Koch and KOCHPAC support candidates we believe will best advance policies that create the economic conditions needed for employees and businesses such as ours to survive and prosper.”

The materials in the packet are entirely consistent with the law and Koch Industries’ record of public statements in support of free-market policies and previously disclosed contributions by KOCHPAC to candidates for public office. Unions have long communicated their preferences to their members knowing full well that inside the voting booth those members would make their own decisions. We are confident that our employees who reviewed the information we sent them did the same.

To learn more about the facts go to www.kochfacts.com.