The Nation joins the Koch-bashing that has become obligatory on the Left with an “expose” of the fact that last year, Koch Industries sent information to some of its employees on the November elections that included identification of candidates that the company thought would help to create a positive economic environment.
This gives The Nation the vapors, but why? Most employees understand that their interests are closely tied to those of their employer. They want their employer to prosper, and the employer’s informed views on what politicians are most likely to enhance, rather than threaten, the company’s future, and therefore that of its employees, are considered valuable input. You can look at the Koch packet for Washington state, which someone passed on to The Nation, and draw your own conclusions. You won’t find anything surprising: Koch’s management is pro-free enterprise, which The Nation, a Communist publication, isn’t. Plus, Charles Koch thinks Calvin Coolidge was a fine President; The Nation disagrees. Yawn.
Over at Obama mouthpiece ThinkProgress, cub reporter Lee Fang, no doubt mortified at being scooped by The Nation, ups the ante. He tries to make the story relevant by terming it “corporate coercion:”
Writing today in the Nation, Mark Ames and Mike Elk reveal that Koch Industries mailed letters to 50,000 employees instructing them on who to vote for in the 2010 midterm elections. …
Corporate coercion of employees is perhaps the most profound repercussion from the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision last year. …
ThinkProgress has covered this disturbing trend of corporate political coercion since 2009.
This sort of breathlessness is typical of ThinkProgress, but, obviously, Koch isn’t coercing anyone. Its cover letter to employees says:
Of course, deciding who to vote for is a decision that is yours and yours alone, based on the factors important to you.
How is Koch’s mailing, or that of any other employer, any different from the endorsement of political candidates that is constantly done by labor unions? Unions send mailings to their members telling them what candidates they should support. They go far beyond that, often asking, if not requiring, their members to man phone banks, march in parades, distribute literature, and so on. Here is how the AFL-CIO describes its political activity:
What is the AFL-CIO’s political program?
The AFL-CIO and affiliate unions mobilize union members at the grassroots level. We encourage union members to register to vote. We also research working families’ concerns about current issues, and put together information showing where candidates for all levels of elected office stand on those issues. Through networks of volunteers and activists, we get the word out to union members across the country about the political and union facts they need to make informed decisions in the voting booth. The AFL-CIO also offers training for union members who want to become more involved in political life by running for office themselves. …
Do unions tell their members how to vote?
Many national unions, central labor councils and state federations–as well as the AFL-CIO–endorse candidates for office and let their members know why they believe the endorsed candidates would do the best job for working families. But no one can tell union members how to vote–that’s up to each individual.
Which is exactly what Koch says. How is the AFL-CIO’s activity any different? Apart from the fact that it, like The Nation and Think Progress, supports Democrats?
For that matter, what about the many other organizations that endorse candidates and produce sample ballots with their favored candidates’ names checked? Like most newspapers, or the Catholic Church? All kinds of organizations endorse candidates; why should employers be any different?
Maybe employers are only different when they support (mostly) Republicans. When Harrah’s management collaborated with the Harry Reid campaign to urge its employees to turn out and vote for Reid, where was the outrage at The Nation or ThinkProgress? Just kidding. Everyone knows that liberals’ selective *outrage* is entirely self-serving.
Here is the real point: for once, young Mr. Fang stumbled across the heart of the issue when he accused Koch of “coercing” its employees to vote for favored candidates. Absent this accusation, the story has no substance: employers, like unions, newspapers, and countless other entities are free to make their political preferences known. But Fang’s accusation of coercion is ridiculous. Koch can’t coerce its employees to vote for conservative or libertarian candidates, any more than Koch’s unions can coerce them to vote for Democratic Party candidates. Why? Because we have a secret ballot. The secret ballot is a guarantee against coercion. Anyone can vote for whoever he chooses. There is no possibility of coercion in the voting booth.
This is a critically important principle, and it is one to which Koch Industries subscribes. Unfortunately, neither The Nation, nor ThinkProgress, nor the Obama administration, nor most Congressional Democrats, oppose such coercion in principle. Rather, they are in favor of coercion, as long as it advances their own selfish political interests. That is why they advocate card check–the abolition of the secret ballot in union elections. Under card check, union thugs can approach employees and demand that they sign the union card. If the employees refuse to sign, they may be found lying in a ditch, beaten or dead; their children may be targeted; their homes may be torched. The whole point of card check is to allow union thugs to coerce unwilling employees to vote for the union when, in a secret ballot, the employees would vote no.
Since the 1960s, when the Democratic Party gave up on Jim Crow, it is hard to think of a more corrupt or more anti-democratic movement in American politics than the Democrats’ attempt to empower union violence. Today’s little vignette is typical of the contemporary political scene: the Democrats accuse others of coercion; but in fact, what they are opposed to is free speech. Coercion will come, if they can ever get it through Congress.