The Federal Election Commission has deadlocked on a complaint about an employer who coerced his salaried employees into donating to a PAC he had started; the three Democratic commissioners voted to take action, the three GOP commissioners voted against, and that means that nothing will happen.
Coal billionaire Robert Murray sent emails to his employees coercing them to donate to a PAC started by his company, Murray Energy. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed a complain with the FEC on behalf of the employees and FEC staffers recommended enforcement against Murray for having violated federal election laws by "coercing Murray Energy employees to make contributions to federal candidates and participate in fundraising activities supporting federal candidates."
The incidences of employer coercion to support candidates and PACs are on the rise. With the FEC taking no enforcement action, it's open season on bosses ordering their employees to donate to their own pet political causes.
The Supreme Court's 2011 Citizens United decision not only cleared the way for corporations to spend unlimited amounts on campaigns from their own treasuries; it also emboldened managers to require employees to attend meetings about politics, or even specific candidates, a study by Hertel-Fernandez concluded. On top of that, there are no federal labor protections for employees who are fired or punished for refusing to participate in an employer's political agenda. As Hertel-Fernandez wrote, technology has also helped corporations amplify their political voice: "A company might now launch a mobilization effort with a series of emails to workers, then call virtual town-hall video forums, and finally ask workers to visit a website to send employer-written messages to their elected officials."
Even if the FEC continues to punt on coercion enforcement and not clarify the rules with future guidance, there are other steps reform advocates can take. As Hertel-Fernandez has noted, Congress currently prohibits PACs from collecting anything of value using "physical force, job discrimination, financial reprisals, or the threat of force, job discrimination, or financial reprisal … or as a condition of employment." By simply altering the statute's language to include corporations, Congress could legally protect employees from political coercion.
Checks: Political Money & Democracy
[Justin Miller/American Prospect]
(via Naked Capitalism)
(Image: Coal mine Wyoming, PD)