“I hope you make 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 elections,” Romney said. “And whether you agree with me or you agree with President Obama, or whatever your political view, I hope, I hope you pass those along to your employees. Nothing illegal about you talking to your employees about what you believe is best for the business, because I think that will figure into their election decision, their voting decision, and of course doing that with your family and your kids as well. I particularly think our young kids … they need to understand that American runs on a strong and vibrant business and we need businesses growing and thriving this country.”
The Huffington Post’s Mollie Reilly is wrong when she says Romney action isn’t illegal – it is. It’s also illegal for employers to tell employees who to vote for, or risk losing their job. The common example that’s used to counter this is the case of the union worker who didn’t want to canvas for an employee. But that’s a union – and thus presents a different situation. The union’s job is political and to canvas and politic for a candidate is part of what unions do; the worker in this case could have just quit the job so this isn’t a good test case.
Moreover, the plaintiff lawyer used the wrong legal argument.
The case was against the United Public Workers via the FEC and this what the Federal Elections Commission wrote:
In this matter, United Public Workers, AFSCME Local 646, AFL-CIO (“UPW” or **the union”) signed a conciliation agreement and agreed to pay $5,500 a civil penalty for violating 2 U.S.C. § 434(g) ofthe Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971, as amended Cthe Act”), by filing to report independent expenditures in support of a federal candidate. The Of&ce of the General Counsel (“OGC)” had further recommended an additional finding that UPW violated 2 U.S.C. § 441b(a) when it required employees to participate in UPW’s independent activities in support of a federal candidate. We could not approve that recommendation because it had no basis in the Act or Commission regulations.
The complainant, a former UPW employee, alleged that UPW coerced her and other union employees to provide support for Hawaii First Congressional District candidate Colleen Hanabusa’s candidacy in a special congressional election on May 22,2010.^ The complainant alleged that she wasfired,along with another employee, when they refused to comply with a UPW request to sign-wave, phone bank, canvass, and contribute to Hanabusa’s campaign.^ In response, the union denied that it coerced employees to participate in union-supported pro- Hanabusa campaign activity. UPW also argued that, under the Act and Citizens United v. FEC,
130 S. Ct. 876 (2010), UPW could compel its employees to participate. According to UPW, Citizens United established that a labor union may engage in political activity, and that nothing prohibits it &om requiring participation by union employees in this activity.
The FEC is wrong here. But the tricky part of that case is that it concerns campaign support, not voting booth activity. But since that action can be seen as a proxy for voting, my assertion is the wrong law was used.
Intimidation of Voters, 18 U.S.C. � 594
Section 594 makes it illegal to use intimidation, threats, or coercion, or attempt to use any of these means, to interfere with the right of another to vote or vote as the individual chooses, or to cause the individual to vote or not vote for any particular candidate for federal office.
That’s the law that should be used.