Romney Caught Encouraging Business Owners to Tell Employees How to Vote

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PORTSMOUTH, OH - OCTOBER 13: Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks to a crowd at Shawnee State University October 13, 2012 in Portsmouth, Ohio. The Romney and Obama campaigns have been concentrating their efforts on Ohio to gain more supporters as Election Day approaches. (Photo by Ty Wright/Getty Images) Photo: Ty Wright/2012 Getty Images

Recently several business owners have made headlines by sending out missives suggesting that workers should vote Romney if they're interested in the health of the business (and thus their jobs). Now In These Times reports that in a June conference call with the National Federation of Independent Business, Mitt Romney said that he's totally behind the questionable practice. "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," said Romney. "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." Sure, there's no law against employers sharing their political opinions; people just tend to find this sort of thing creepy and unethical, particularly when their boss suggests there's a good chance they'll be joining the ranks of the unemployed if they don't vote Romney.

Though Romney says at the end of the call (the pertinent remarks are 26 minutes in) that he wants employers to pass on their political views "whether you agree with me or you agree with President Obama," so far there have only been reports of pro-Romney mailings. Earlier this month the Koch brothers sent a voter information packet to 45,000 Georgia Pacific employees, including pro-Romney and anti-Obama editorials penned by the brothers themselves and a note that they "may suffer the consequences, including higher gasoline prices, runaway inflation, and other ills" if they vote for the wrong candidate. The CEO of Westgate Resorts — better known as the subject of the documentary The Queen of Versaillestold employees that if the president's tax plan is implemented, "I will have no choice but to reduce the size of this company." The CEO of ASG Software Solutions sent a similar e-mail to employees and said that if Obama is reelected, "I don't want to hear any complaints regarding the fallout that will most likely come."

The Romney campaign has yet to comment on the story, and it's unclear whether these were one-time remarks or a practice the campaign has been pushing all along. If the Romney team does respond, it's likely to point out that business owners have every right to voice their concerns about the economy under President Obama. Still, a recording of Romney commiserating with presumably wealthy employers about how to influence their subordinates' votes isn't exactly a great image for a candidate pushing the idea that he's all about "the 100 percent."