The Koch Brothers Read Hayek

One of the things Hayek disliked about Social Security was that it gave the government—in this case, the agencies responsible for collecting and dispensing Social Security—a ready-made vehicle for the dissemination of propaganda. Particularly propaganda on behalf of Social Security.

It confers on the organization a power over minds that is in the same class with the powers of a totalitarian state which has the monopoly of the means of supplying information.

As good libertarians, the Koch brothers have naturally read their Hayek. Which is why they do stuff like this.

In a voter information packet obtained by In These Times, the Koch Industries corporate leadership informed tens of thousands of employees at its subsidiary, Georgia Pacific, that their livelihood could depend on the 2012 election and that the company supports Mitt Romney for president….

The packet arrived in the mailboxes of all 45,000 Georgia Pacific employees earlier this month. The cover letter, by Koch Industries President and Chief Operating Officer Dave Robertson, read:

While we are typically told before each Presidential election that it is important and historic, I believe the upcoming election will determine what kind of America future generations will inherit.

If we elect candidates who want to spend hundreds of billions 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.

The Koch’s in-house campaigning for the GOP is part of a larger trend of corporations exercising new freedoms under Citizens United. The Supreme Court decision overturned previous FEC laws prohibiting employers from expressing electoral opinions directly to their employees.

Ironically, while the Kochs have been taking advantage of Citizens United to expand political communications to employees, they have also capitalized on weak labor laws to limit the political speech of those employees.

In September, a number of unionized employees at Georgia Pacific’s Toledo, Ore. plant posed for a photo in front of their union hall with Democratic state Senate candidate Arnie Roblan. When the Koch Industries voter information packet arrived in the workers’ mailboxes a few weeks later, they saw that Roblan was not on the list of Koch-endorsed candidates in Oregon.

It was then, says Association of Western Pulp and Paper Workers (AWPPW) Vice President Greg Pallesen, that he started receiving some of the strangest phone calls from workers he’s fielded in his 30-plus years of union involvement. The unionized workers in the photo were worried that they might be fired from their jobs if the image got out on the Internet, because in the backdrop of the photo, the Georgia Pacific plant could be seen.

Their fear comes not only from the mailing, but also from a new Georgia Pacific social media policy implemented earlier this year that warns, “Even if your social media conduct is outside of the workplace and/or non-work related, it must not reflect negatively on GP’s reputation, its products, or its brands.” Given the policy, the workers were scared to appear next to a candidate the Kochs do not support with the plant in the background.

In the new era ushered in by Citizens United, Koch Industries is not the only company seeking to control its employees’ political activities, including speech, lobbying efforts, donations and votes.

This week, Gawker obtained an email from the CEO of Westgate Resorts, Florida billionaire David Siegel, informing his 7,000 employees that a vote for Obama would endanger their jobs. Like Dave Robertson of Koch Industries, he couched this as an economic analysis rather than a threat.

Meanwhile, a new expose by Alec MacGillis of The New Republic reveals that the largest privately held coal company in the nation, Murray Energy, has routinely coerced its employees in to giving to GOP candidates. In the process, Murray Energy workers became the second largest block of donors to Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner’s 2009-2010 coffers. “We have been insulted by every salaried employee who does not support our efforts,” wrote company CEO Robert Murray in a March 2012 letter to employees obtained by The New Republic; attached was a list of employees who had not yet attended fundraisers.

And last year, Talking Points Memo reported that Delta offered free rides, even bumping paying customers, for its flight attendants to fly to Washington, D.C. to lobby for an FAA bill that would make it more difficult for airline workers to organize a union. “A lot of flight attendants told me that their supervisors would encourage them to book a flight to Washington to go lobby,” says Association of Flight Attendants (AFA-CWA) spokesperson Corey Caldwell.


  1. msobel October 15, 2012 at 12:55 pm | #

    I do agree with Koch on one point “I believe the upcoming election will determine what kind of America future generations will inherit.”

  2. sidney18511 October 15, 2012 at 2:19 pm | #

    I live in Florida, and our tea party nutjob of a governor changed the laws giving corporations the right to fire you for any reason, even a picture or a post you put on your own Facebook page. As a result only 16% of the recently unemployed can collect benefits. They also have to take a timed test (like school), which if not finished quickly enough, or not accurate, the state takes away weeks that you would normally be due.

  3. Shannon, Sean (LNG-HBE) October 15, 2012 at 7:56 pm | #


  4. Alex October 17, 2012 at 1:53 pm | #

    Do you happen to have a link handy that describes what those previous FEC regulations actually said, and when they were promulgated? In my research I’ve come across a whole bunch of similar letters that large employers distributed to their workers during the early 1970s. I’m curious about the legality of these letters– i.e. whether they were carefully worded so as to avoid violating the law, if state law (rather than federal law) was applicable in some cases since some of the letters discussed state-level campaigns, etc. etc.

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