This election season brought out some of the more bizarre behavior we’ve seen from corporations across the country.
Having unlimited access to candidates through unlimited campaign contributions wasn’t enough. Some CEO types got on bully pulpits to blast the president and his health care plan before the election.
Some of that rhetoric was over the top. Some of it could have been illegal.
Papa John’s CEO John Schnatter warned that he would raise his pizza prices from 15 cents to 20 cents per order to pay for Obamacare, which could bring the third largest pizza delivery operation in the U.S. millions more in health for its bottom line. After all, he’s got to find some way to pay for those 2 million free pizzas Peyton Manning promised NFL fans from the “official pizza of the NFL.” Pizza Hut and Dominos—numbers one and two—have been mum on the topic.
Manning isn’t talking too much either.
All that talk from Schnatter ranks up there with anchovies on the political palate–you love it or you hate it. Little guys like Ian’s Pizza in Madison and Milwaukee, Wisconsin chose its side in the argument when it fed protesters at the state Capitol free pizza during a tumultuous union busting debate the state legislature was holding last year. Its largess was highlighted in the New York Times, after donations for pizzas came from all over the world.
Schnatter this month also started reducing employees’ work hours. No word on whether Manning, who also happens to own 21 Papa John’s in Colorado, will follow suit with his crews.
The election seemed to embolden corporate honchos to flaunt their positions of influence over their workers as well.
A Milwaukee industrialist sent an e-mail to his 1,400 employees worldwide, telling them that they should understand the “personal consequences” of voting for President Barack Obama. He said that if Obama were elected it would eliminate the employees’ retirement savings plans and he may stop paying for employee health plans, paying the Obamacare penalty instead. His e-mail didn’t tell workers directly to vote for Romney, but “please think carefully about your vote on Nov. 6.”
Romney signs ringed his corporate headquarters.
The local Citizen Action group filed a complaint asking the district attorney to look into the e-mail, citing election statutes: “No employer or agent of an employer may distribute to any employee printed matter containing any threat, notice or information that if a particular ticket of a political party or organization or candidate is elected or any referendum question is adopted or rejected, work in the employer’s place or establishment will cease, in whole or in part, or the place or establishment will be closed, or the salaries or wages of the employees will be reduced, or other threats intended to influence the political opinions or actions of the employees.”
The district attorney declined to issue charges.
Cincinnati-based Cintas CEO Scott Farmer sent a similar e-mail to his 34,000 employees that work for the corporate uniform and facilities services provider. He not only bemoaned Obamacare and increased tax rates, but government regulation.
“These decisions and policies could also have a significant impact on Cintas – on our ability to run our business effectively and efficiently, on our ability to attract and retain customers and on our ability to provide the level of benefits, opportunities, and development we believe our partners want, need and deserve.”
Ditto for David Siegel, top dog at Westgate Resorts, the time-share kings. His 7,000 employees got an Obama diatribe signed “your boss.”
“You see, I can no longer support a system that penalizes the productive and gives to the unproductive,” he wrote. “My motivation to work and to provide jobs will be destroyed, and with it, so will your opportunities. If that happens, you can find me in the Caribbean sitting on the beach, under a palm tree, retired, and with no employees to worry about. … So, when you make your decision to vote, ask yourself, which candidate understands the economics of business ownership and who doesn’t? Whose policies will endanger your job?”
Jimmy John’s CEO and founder John Liautaud said in October that he would cut employee hours to 28 hours a week to dodge the mandate to provide health insurance to full-time workers. Liautaud is also moving Jimmy John’s headquarters out of Illinois to protest the state’s increase in corporate tax rate. Liautaud opens his checkbook regularly for Republican causes, including the maximum $5,000 to Mitt Romney. He gave $105,000 to Republican PACs and he and Jimmy John’s employees gave $70,000 in one fundraising cycle this year.
When talking about potentially nefarious electioneering, it can’t be a surprise to find the Koch brothers involved in there somewhere.
Koch Industries president Dave Robertson sent his 50,000-plus employees a credo bemoaning Democratic leanings, but not naming names.
“If we elect candidates who want to spend hundreds of billions of dollars in borrowed money on costly new subsidies for a few favored cronies, put unprecedented regulatory burdens on businesses, prevent or delay important new construction projects and excessively hinder free trade, then many of our more than 50,000 U.S. employees and contractors may suffer the consequences, including higher gasoline prices, runaway inflation and other ills,” Robertson wrote.
To back that up, Charles and David Koch spent more than $400 million telling the rest us the same thing through their front groups Americans for Prosperity and Freedomworks.
Murray Energy CEO Robert Murray doesn’t just spend his company’s money backing right-wing causes; he strong arms his managers to give it up too. The Ohio-based coal company was House Speaker John Boehner’s second largest source of campaign money. Murray was a regular player in the Romney campaign as well. An investigation found that the company tracks who is giving and not giving to its corporate PAC, which then sends the cash to GOP hopefuls.
Chick-Fil-A CEO Dan Cathy puts millions of his company’s money behind anti-gay causes through his WinShape Foundation.
The Supreme Court ruled last year that corporations are people, too, when it comes to giving money to political candidates. That opened the financial floodgates across the Dow Jones. Corporations had been banned from giving to campaigns since Watergate. Responding to the corporate corruption of the Nixon campaign, the door was closed on industry money.
Companies certainly took advantage of the high court decision by the millions. Corporate America put $2 billion into the 2012 election.
Among the top ten in giving include: Lockheed Martin; Bank of America; Honeywell; Huntsman Corporation; Microsoft; Dreamworks Animation; AT&T; Comcast; Goldman Sachs; ad Las Vegas Sands Corp. Most of that money went to Republicans. The Sands—number one by far on the list–gave all of its $11.7 million as of mid-year to Republicans, as did the huntsman Corporation and its $2.2 million. Microsoft, Dreamworks and Comcast gave more of their money to Democrats.
All that activity happened before the election, but the feeling apparently lingers. Apple-Metro CEO Zane Tankel, who owns 40 Applebee’s franchises in the New York metropolitan area, said last week he was considering no more hires and cutting hours because of Obamacare.
That has calls for boycotts from employees.
Hite Rite CEO Michael remains mum on future plans for his company.