Billionaire CEOs with 'company town' attitudes pressure employees to vote their way
David and Jackie Siegel appear in The Queen of Versailles documentary about how the economy squeezed their ambitions to finish building their 90,000-square-foot home, named Versailles, near Orlando, one of the largest residences ever built in America. AP photo.
Wake up and good morning. We've seen a few Tampa Bay area CEOs willing to fess up and declare their political allegiance in the coming presidential election. Raymond James Financial CEO Paul Reilly stepped up this month at the Suncoast Tiger Bay Club and declared he supported Barack Obama in his 2008 quest for the presidency but is switching his backing to Mitt Romney this time. Ditto Rick Silva, CEO of the Tampa-based burger chain Checkers, who recently voiced his support for Romney at a Tampa Chamber breakfast.
All well and good. Kudos to executives willing to speak honestly.
What's so disturbing, though, are the growing numbers of super-wealthy CEOs who are pressuring their own employees to vote for Romney or face the increased possibility of losing their jobs. That's pathetic bullying at its worst. An insult to democracy -- even if these are all private companies.
Orlando's David Siegel sent an email to his employees suggesting at least some workers will lose their jobs if they vote for Obama. Here's Siegel interviewed on TV by Fox Business News. Fox asks Westgate Resorts CEO Siegel: Are you trying to influence worker votes? "Yes." Siegel says he's just informing his company of what's ahead if Obama is re-elected.
But Siegel's apparently not the only CEO to pressure employees to make voting decisions under direct threat of losing employment. NBC News reports that billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch sent mailings to 45,000 workers of the Koch-controlled Georgia Pacific paper company stating they could "suffer the consequences, including higher gasoline prices, runaway inflation and other ills" if they supported candidates not support by Koch-owned companies or its political fundraising arm. Read more here and here.
And CEO Arthur Allen of a software firm -- yes, this one is also based in Florida -- called ASG in Naples reportedly also warned workers. "I don't want to hear any complaints regarding the fallout that will most likely come," Allen told workers via email. His message? ASG buys companies and cuts 60 percent of the jobs of those purchased businesses. But ASG may end up losing its own independence and being bought (implication: your jobs will be cut) if Obama is re-elected. Read more here and here.
In U.S. News & World Report, writer Rick Newman offers a good point of view about rich guys pushing workers around and telling them what their politics should be. It's called Why Good CEOs Don't Tell Their Workers How To Vote. Read it here.
-- Robert Trigaux, Business Columnist, Tampa Bay Times