Although a variety of distortions in the press have arisen regarding a letter that Koch sent to its employees, many of the lies are being swiftly refuted in the public discourse. Blogger Mark Draugh quickly noted the hypocrisy of publications that engage in political speech complaining that other people are exercising the right to political speech. Andrew Evans at the Washington Free Beacon called the initial article about our letter “a smear” and pointed out that there was no effort in our letter to “control” anyone’s vote — as the initial report had falsely claimed. Nor did we threaten layoffs, as was suggested — in fact, we are currently advertising for more than 2,400 open positions throughout Koch companies in the US.
As Koch has done on previous occasions, we sent a mailing to our employees this month that included a list of candidates that KOCHPAC, our employee political action committee, has supported. Of course, that is a completely legitimate activity, entirely consistent with the law and also with our record of public statements in support of free-market policies and publicly disclosed contributions by KOCHPAC to various candidates. Our employees receive information concerning these issues from numerous sources. We provided them similar information, which many employees have requested from us, so they could consider our point of view as well to the extent they wanted to do so. We trust our employees to make their own decisions based on the factors that are important to them. We encourage our employees to be active and engaged in the political process particularly given the vital importance of the upcoming election. We in no way threatened, suggested, or required anyone to vote a particular way and we have been open and transparent about what we did and why we did it, posting the correspondence on our website since the beginning of October. The coordinated media attacks against us took 10 days to notice this, based on an alleged “expose” by In These Times, which is a partisan left wing periodical.
But several other news organizations have irresponsibly repeated the report in a dishonest and manifestly false way. A British newspaper called the Daily Mail, for instance, ran a headline saying that we were “telling [employees] to vote for Romney.” Not true. In fact, the letter makes it perfectly clear that any decision about which candidates to support belongs solely to our employees, based on the factors that are most important to them. Reporter Meghan Keneally’s story was so sloppy she wrote that Georgia-Pacific was based in Washington State while is it actually headquartered in Georgia.
Then, on October 15th, ABC commentator Whoopi Goldberg said on the air that Koch had indicated layoffs would occur if President Obama was re-elected. Noel Sheppard at Newsbusters easily exposed how she had deceived her own viewers and called on ABC to issue an immediate retraction.
The Atlantic Magazine’s Adam Clark Estes wrote that we had “sent employees a list of people to vote for” and that we were “pushing our political will onto employees.” Wrong again — the mailing indicated the candidates that Koch was supporting and said plainly that employees should vote for whomever they prefer. (This is the same Estes who wrote earlier that same day, “even though it’s a bummer that the folks reading the Bible in North Korea think the government will kill them if they find out, progress takes patience.”) So too, apparently, does fact checking.
It should be noted that over the course of decades we have publicly commented on the negative consequences of unbridled government spending and have opposed such practices regardless of the political party in power. That’s why, as we cite in the letter, we do not support candidates based on party affiliation. Some commenters have claimed that employees will “suffer the consequences” of their vote. But again, this refers to economic and societal problems that will be the consequence of continued unchecked spending. Discussing these issues with employees isn’t coercion or intimidation – it is treating employees with the respect they deserve as self-determining citizens of the United States.