With just a fortnight until Halloween, Chris Matthews thinks he has just the story to scare the bejesus out of his viewers: Corporate executives sharing with their employees via email why they think a vote for Mitt Romney is better for the company's business.
I kid you not. Matthews attempted to blow a few such incidents into a grand scandal of "voter suppression" proportions on his October 17 program. Here's how Matthews introduced the segment:
Here's a scary trend. A growing list of pro-Romney CEOs trying to scare their employees by essentially saying if Obama wins the election, you should fear for your jobs.
Matthews then gave some examples, beginning with a quote from an email by Westgate Resorts CEO David Siegel:
He told employees, quote, "If any new taxes are levied on me, or my company, as our current president plans, I will have no choice but to reduce the size of the company."
Matthews then quoted ASG Software Solutions CEO Arthur Allen's email to employees:
If we fail as a nation to make the right choice on November 6th, and we lose our independence as a company, I don't want to hear any complaints regarding the fallout that will most likely come.
"Does this kind of fear-mongering cross a line," Matthews asked, answering, "Let's find out," by turning to, of course, two hard-left journalists, Chrystia Freeland of Thomson Reuters and John Nichols, Washington, D.C. bureau chief for the left-wing Nation magazine. Naturally, Matthews failed to include anyone to defend the free speech rights of corporate CEOs who explain to their employees why they think Obama is bad for the economy at large and their own companies specifically.
In fact, Matthews returned to this well again for his "Let Me Finish" closing commentary, threading the needle with other Republicans-are-dirty campaigners memes promulgated by MSNBC:
Let me finish tonight with this.
There's something old and bad combining this campaign finish. You've seen the efforts of Republicans to kill the vote of minorities, all this voter suppression out there. You've seen the moves to intimidate minority voters by scaring them from the polling places.
And you've heard the words of racial denunciation dripping from the lips of Republicans and their backers on the right.
Now comes the news tonight of how employers are intimidating their employees into voting Republican.
Is this the kind of democracy people actually believe in?: Voter suppression, voter intimidation, racial agitation, bosses telling workers how to vote.
Are people actually proud of doing this kind of thing? Do they really believe this is what the Founding Fathers risked their lives and sacred honor for? This stuff?
That's a fine, self-righteous speech for Chris, but at no point has he proved actual voter intimidation from the men he cited. He failed to prove any threats to fire employees for the act of voting for Obama.
Matthews also left out that Siegel, in the email to his employees, explicitly stated the following in the first paragraph of his October 8 email (emphasis mine):
[T]he good news is this: The economy doesn't currently pose a threat to your job. What does threaten your job however, is another 4 years of the same Presidential administration. Of course, as your employer, I can't tell you whom to vote for, and I certainly wouldn't interfere with your right to vote for whomever you choose. In fact, I encourage you to vote for whomever you think will serve your interests the best.
Siegel then proceeded to spend the next 10 paragraphs sharing his rationale for why Romney was the better candidate for the health of the economy writ large and Westgate Resort in particular. Below I've excerpted the rest of the email, wherein Siegel lays out his rationale, using arguments you won't find quoted by media outlets that are hoping to spin this as negatively as possible, such as Matthews (emphasis mine):
However, let me share a few facts that might help you decide what is in your best interest.The current administration and members of the press have perpetuated an environment that casts employers against employees. They want you to believe that we live in a class system where the rich get richer, the poor get poorer. They label us the "1%" and imply that we are somehow immune to the challenges that face our country. This could not be further from the truth. Sure, you may have heard about the big home that I'm building. I'm sure many people think that I live a privileged life. However, what you don't see or hear is the true story behind any success that I have achieved.
I started this company over 42 years ago. At that time, I lived in a very modest home. I converted my garage into an office so I could put forth 100% effort into building a company, which by the way, would eventually employ you. We didn't eat in fancy restaurants or take expensive vacations because every dollar I made went back into this company. I drove an old used car, and often times, I stayed home on weekends, while my friends went out drinking and partying. In fact, I was married to my business — hard work, discipline, and sacrifice. Meanwhile, many of my friends got regular jobs. They worked 40 hours a week and made a nice income, and they spent every dime they earned. They drove flashy cars and lived in expensive homes and wore fancy designer clothes. My friends refinanced their mortgages and lived a life of luxury. I, however, did not. I put my time, my money, and my life into this business —-with a vision that eventually, some day, I too, will be able to afford to buy whatever I wanted. Even to this day, every dime I earn goes back into this company. Over the past four years I have had to stop building my dream house, cut back on all of my expenses, and take my kids out of private schools simply to keep this company strong and to keep you employed.
Just think about this – most of you arrive at work in the morning and leave that afternoon and the rest of your time is yours to do as you please. But not me- there is no "off" button for me. When you leave the office, you are done and you have a weekend all to yourself. I unfortunately do not have that freedom. I eat, live, and breathe this company every minute of the day, every day of the week. There is no rest. There is no weekend. There is no happy hour. I know many of you work hard and do a great job, but I'm the one who has to sign every check, pay every expense, and make sure that this company continues to succeed. Unfortunately, what most people see is the nice house and the lavish lifestyle. What the press certainly does not want you to see, is the true story of the hard work and sacrifices I've made.
Now, the economy is falling apart and people like me who made all the right decisions and invested in themselves are being forced to bail out all the people who didn't. The people that overspent their paychecks suddenly feel entitled to the same luxuries that I earned and sacrificed 42 years of my life for. Yes, business ownership has its benefits, but the price I've paid is steep and not without wounds. Unfortunately, the costs of running a business have gotten out of control, and let me tell you why: We are being taxed to death and the government thinks we don't pay enough. We pay state taxes, federal taxes, property taxes, sales and use taxes, payroll taxes, workers compensation taxes and unemployment taxes. I even have to hire an entire department to manage all these taxes. The question I have is this: Who is really stimulating the economy? Is it the Government that wants to take money from those who have earned it and give it to those who have not, or is it people like me who built a company out of his garage and directly employs over 7000 people and hosts over 3 million people per year with a great vacation?
Obviously, our present government believes that taking my money is the right economic stimulus for this country. The fact is, if I deducted 50% of your paycheck you'd quit and you wouldn't work here. I mean, why should you? Who wants to get rewarded only 50% of their hard work? Well, that's what happens to me.
Here is what most people don't understand and the press and our Government has chosen to ignore – to stimulate the economy you need to stimulate what runs the economy. Instead of raising my taxes and depositing that money into the Washington black-hole, let me spend it on growing the company, hire more employees, and generate substantial economic growth. My employees will enjoy the wealth of that tax cut in the form of promotions and better salaries. But that is not what our current Government wants you to believe. They want you to believe that it somehow makes sense to take more from those who create wealth and give it to those who do not, and somehow our economy will improve. They don't want you to know that the "1%", as they like to label us, pay more than 31% of all the taxes in this country. Thomas Jefferson, the author of our great Constitution, once said, "democracy" will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not."
Business is at the heart of America and always has been. To restart it, you must stimulate business, not kill it. However, the power brokers in Washington believe redistributing wealth is the essential driver of the American economic engine. Nothing could be further from the truth and this is the type of change they want.
So where am I going with all this? It's quite simple. If any new taxes are levied on me, or my company, as our current President plans, I will have no choice but to reduce the size of this company. Rather than grow this company I will be forced to cut back. This means fewer jobs, less benefits and certainly less opportunity for everyone.
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? Answer those questions and you should know who might be the one capable of protecting and saving your job. While the media wants to tell you to believe the "1 percenters" are bad, I'm telling you they are not. They create most of the jobs. If you lose your job, it won't be at the hands of the "1%"; it will be at the hands of a political hurricane that swept through this country.
You see, I can no longer support a system that penalizes the productive and gives to the unproductive. 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.
Signed, your boss,
Siegel is merely making a case to his employees using many of the similar arguments that conservatives are making about an economic future under a second Obama term. Siegel didn't threaten any individual employee with termination for voting for Obama nor hint at such in his email, he simply groused that he was sorely tempted to shutter the company should Obama win reelection, because he is that convinced Obama's economic policies are punitive on wealth creators.
Here's the full text of Arthur Allen's email to his employees (emphasis mine):
Subject: Will the US Presidential election directly impact your future jobs at ASG? Please read below.
To all ASG employees,
We have been stuck in an extremely sick global economy, but as we should all know by now, the global economy largely depends on the US economy. This sick global economy has been negatively influencing ASG since December 2008. No one could have ever have dreamed that the US economy would still be sick 4 years later, but it is. We have a chance, as individuals, to help turn the sick US economy into a healthy economy, and positively influence the global economy as well. This chance comes on November 6th, when we elect a new President and administration. The US and the world need to elect individuals who have business experience. Neither the world nor the US can stand to elect politicians any longer. In my view, and in the view of most business leaders, if you give politicians 100 questions, they will give you back 100 wrong answers simply because they have no basis for making those decisions. Would you hire a person with no experience to do brain surgery? Of course not, but that's what the US voters did in 2009. Why does the world keep hiring politicians to run our global economies when they have no experience? It just makes no sense, and yet the world keeps doing it over and over again. Let's take the lead on November 6th and show the world how it should and can be done.
Many of you have been with ASG for over 5, 10, 15, and even 20 years. As you know, together, we have been able to keep ASG an independent company while still growing our revenues and customers. But I can tell you, if the US re-elects President Obama, our chances of staying independent are slim to none. I am already heavily involved in considering options that make our independence go away, and with that all of our lives would change forever. I believe that a new President and administration would give US citizens and the world the renewed confidence and optimism we all need to get the global economies started again, and give ASG a chance to stay independent. If we fail as a nation to make the right choice on November 6th, and we lose our independence as a company, I don't want to hear any complaints regarding the fallout that will most likely come. Remember, in the world of business, companies are consolidators or they get consolidated; so far ASG has been a consolidator, completing over 60 acquisitions in our 26 year history. When we buy a company, we eliminate about 60 percent of the salaries of the employees of that company. If we lose our independence and get consolidated, the same thing would happen to ASG's employees.
I am asking you to give us one more chance to stay independent by voting in a new President and administration on November 6th. Even then, we still might not be able to remain independent, but it will at least give us a chance. If we don't, that chance goes away.
I apologize for writing such a blunt email, but for those of you who have known me for years and years, you know that this must be serious, and it is. I am going to follow this email with an email to All Sales, offering all of our help to assist them in making Q4 the best quarter in ASG history. Business is hard to find, but it is out there if Sales just goes and gets it.
Matthews is free to disagree with it and even think Siegel and Allen are jerks, but to insist that either are engaged in voter intimidation is a stretch. To hint, as Matthews does, that these emails from two CEOs are part of a broader strategy, nay, conspiracy, is downright irresponsible.
P.S.: According to the Orlando Sentinel, Siegel is a "rabid anti-smoker" who "prohibits his Florida employees from smoking on or off the job" [emphasis mine]. That policy is arguably a much more un-American action that carping to his employees about how bad Obama is and strongly urging that they vote for Romney.