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Coercing Contributions at Work: The FEC’s Latest Decision

June 9, 2016, Covington Alert

On Friday, three Federal Election Commission (FEC) Commissioners provided a clear description of their understanding of the facts and law that led them to oppose opening an investigation into whether Murray Energy coerced its employees into making political contributions. Statement of Reasons of Chairman Petersen and Commissioners Hunter and Goodman, FEC MUR 6661. While clarity in the law is always to be commended, the standard they use to define when a contribution is coerced is narrow and will certainly allow conduct that many employers now reject as excessive. As with two earlier decisions in which three Commissioners voted not to pursue enforcement actions against employers who compelled employees to attend a candidate’s rally or to waive signs or make calls supporting a candidate, it is clear that the FEC will not be an effective barrier to employers pressuring employees to engage in many kinds of political activity. As Lindsay Burke and I noted in a recent article in Corporate Counsel Magazine, there remain state employment law issues to consider, but the signal from this recent FEC case is unmistakable.

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