Consumer Group Calls For Investigation Into Illegal Electioneering By Employers

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Employees’ Paychecks Stuffed With Election Material, Corporate $ Tip Key Races

Santa Monica, CA — The nonprofit, nonpartisan Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR) today called upon Attorney General John Ashcroft to appoint a special independent investigator in order to determine whether American corporations violated federal election law to give Republicans a victory last Tuesday. A complaint was also filed with the Federal Elections Commission.

FTCR pointed to a November 6th presentation by one of America’s largest corporate law firms, Piper Rudnick, which details a “Permanent Campaign” by corporations to influence employees through voter materials included with their pay checks; funding of eleventh hour issue advertising on television in key races; and creation of new PACs and committees to evade campaign finance reform laws. The firm analysis states that corporate Get Out The Vote [GOTV] efforts and television advertising were key to the Republican victory in 2002 and will escalate in 2004.

Read the “Permanent Campaign” presentation.

Federal elections law only allows employers to communicate with employees about voting on a nonpartisan basis. The Piper Rudnick analysis discusses GOTV as part of a partisan Republican “ground war” and compares business GOTV tactics to labor union efforts, even though unions are permitted to communicate in a partisan manner. FTCR asked Ashcroft to appoint an independent investigator to inspect the election materials referenced in Piper Rudnick’s presentation.

“The voting booth, not the workplace, should be the battle ground of elections,” said Jamie Court, executive director of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights. “American workers must be assured that their job is not contingent upon how they vote. When the workplace becomes a campaign office for business-friendly politicians, democracy is put up for sale.”

Entitled “2002 Federal Elections Analysis: Approaches to Governance Within The Permanent Campaign,” Piper Rudnick’s analysis boasts the success of the following corporate strategies, with “business fully engaged in pivotal races.” According to the law firm:

‘ “Business Embraces GOTV: Perfects Successful Democratic Tactics’.CONCLUSION: Business Fully Engaged In Ground War in 2002 Election.” Among the examples:

–“Business and Industry Political Action Committee (BIPAC): Develop voter guide for 5,000 companies/20 million employees.”

–“U.S. Chamber of Commerce: Print tens of thousands of ‘Vote! It’s Your Business’ inserts for employees’ paycheck envelopes in states with key Senate and House races;”

–“National Beer Wholesalers Association (NBWA): Insert voting information fliers into employees’ paycheck envelopes;”

–“Household International: Internal voter registration drive, e-mail to workers, distribute candidate position charts.”

‘ “Business dominates independent television ads in key races’Business ads [were] pivotal in close Republican victories: promote critical turnout by seniors.” This includes $1.562 million for “Colorado Senate (Pro-Allard)” and $1 million for “New Hampshire Senate (Pro-Sununu)” where “TV ads showcase issues” such as “market-based prescription drug coverage” to make a difference. In addition, “Business groups estimated to outspend traditional Democratic groups nearly 3 to 1 in 2002 House races.”

‘ Since recent campaign finance reforms prohibit soft money contributions to parties and candidates, the presentation reveals “New Efforts to Rechannel Soft Money Outlets: [issue related] 501(c) (4)s and 527s give business control over soft money spending. Business contributions through such organizations has been pivotal in key races. Soft money spending is likely to continue to increase. For political and competitive reasons, businesses will use 501(c) (4)s and 527s increasingly’Business must tailor their political strategies to maximize both impact and effectiveness for their legislative and business agendas.”

Sec. 441b of the Federal Election Campaign Act states that it is unlawful for a corporation to spend money communicating with rank and file workers about voting unless that expenditure is nonpartisan in nature, or is intended solely to get out the vote, and does not express a preference for any candidate.

FTCR noted to Ashcroft that business communications to employees outlined in the Piper Rudnick analysis appear to cross this line because the partisan analysis emphasizes business involvement as “pivotal in close Republican victories”.

Among the materials which FTCR asked to be examined for violation of federal law:

– Language used in voter guides developed by the Business and Industry PAC and distributed to 5,000 companies for circulation to employees

– Manner in which the National Federation of Independent Business publicized voting records of candidates

– Language used on voter information fliers inserted into employee paychecks by the National Beer Wholesalers Association

– Information included on candidate position charts distributed to workers by Household International

“Corporations are not likely to spend millions to get their workers to the polls without influencing how they vote,” said FTCR’s Carmen Balber. “It would be bad business.”

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Consumer Watchdog
Consumer Watchdog
Providing an effective voice for American consumers in an era when special interests dominate public discourse, government and politics. Non-partisan.

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