In a June call to small-businesses owners, Mitt Romney suggested that small-business owners might want to talk to their employees about the election. In These Times reports (emphasis mine):
In a June 6, 2012 conference call posted on the anti-union National Federation of Independent Business’s website, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney instructed employers to tell their employees how to vote in the upcoming election.
Romney was addressing a group of self-described “small-business owners.” Twenty-six minutes into the call, after making a lengthy case that President Obama’s first term has been bad for business, Romney said:
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. And whether you agree with me or you agree with President Obama, or whatever your political view, I hope, I hope you pass those along to your employees. . . .
In the June call, Romney went on to reassure his audience that it is perfectly legal for them to talk to their employees about how to vote:
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.
He’s correct that such speech is now legal for the first time ever, thanks to the Citizen United ruling, which overturned previous Federal Election Commission laws that prohibited employers from political campaigning among employees.
I understand what Romney was trying to do — in some ways, it’s not that different than urging people inspired by his policies for the next four years to make the case for his candidacy to their friends and families — but certainly employers would have to be careful to make the case for Romney’s candidacy in conjunction with an understanding that an employee who voted for someone other than Romney wasn’t facing the loss of his job or other career consequences as a result. And the same goes for employers who promote Obama as a candidate: it needs to be clear that any opinions given are given as a friend, not as an employer.
UPDATE: This post has been modified — I felt that the way I wrote about it initially didn’t take into account that Romney had said employers, whether they supported him or Obama, should talk to their employees about it.