UPDATE: For an update on this story click here: Former official from the Federal Election Commission slams Reid.
Employees of casino giant Harrah’s may have been pushed by executives to vote early in order to help Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid win his tough re-election campaign against Republican Sharron Angle according to emails leaked to the press. If true, this would violate Federal Election law, as coordinating “Get Out The Vote” efforts cannot be coordinated with a political candidate.
The Federal Election Commission prohibits coordination between companies, unions, and candidates for Get Out The Vote efforts:
Registration and GOTV drives beyond the restricted class cannot be coordinated with any candidate or any political party. 109.21 and 114.4(d)(2).
According to Elizabeth Crum at National Review, a Reid staffer sent an email to Harrah’s top lobbyist Jan Jones, who in turn distributed the email to executives — offering any help possible to get out the vote for Reid. Upon learning that mid-level supervisors are not “cooperating with and listening to upper management,” the Reid staffer even goes so far as to suggest that Harrah’s execs “put a headlock on your supervisors to get them to follow through.”
In her email to management, Harrah’s Batjer requested of her colleagues to “PLEASE do whatever we need” to communicate to company supervisors that there is “NOTHING more important than to get employees out to vote.”
She even issued an express endorsement. “Waking up to the defeat of Harry Reid Nov. 3 will be devastating for our industry’s future,” Batjer wrote.
On Friday, Western Regional President Tom Jenkin sent out a follow-up email showing a total vote count for Harrah’s properties along with the percentages of employees who had voted at each property. Attached to the email was a spreadsheet showing employee names and at which property they worked. Supervisors were asked to fill in codes explaining why their employees had not yet voted.
That’s right: Companies are passing around a spreadsheet of who did and did not vote, and coordinating with Reid staffers. The FEC’s guide for corporations and unions also states that the mid-level supervisors and regular employees that Harrah’s is attempting to get to vote for Reid are outside the restricted class and thus cannot be responsible for coordinating transportation to polls. Here’s the language:
Corporations and labor organizations may conduct voter registration and get-out-the-vote (GOTV) drives urging the restricted class to register with a particular party or to vote for a particular candidate. 114.3(c)(4).
The corporation or labor organization may provide transportation to the place of registration or to the polls but cannot condition that service on support of a particular candidate or party. 114.3(c)(4).
Emails from Reid’s campaign would likely qualify as coordination.
ThinkProgress made hay out of similar actions committed by the management of a single McDonald’s franchise in Canton, Ohio, who wrote employees encouraging them to vote for specific Republican candidates — for which the owner later apologized. But Harrah’s employs thousands and, in these emails, is alleged to be coordinating with a candidate. This is a bigger (and probably more predictable) problem.