Florida billionaire David Siegel told his employees this week that layoffs are likely for them if President Obama defeats GOP nominee Mitt Romney in November.
In an e-mail to his 7,000 employees, the time-share mogul said that while he does not want to tell his employees how to vote, the re-election of Obama will nevertheless have negative consequences.
“What does threaten your job however, is another 4 years of the same Presidential administration,” he said.
“You see, I can no longer support a system that penalizes the productive and gives to the unproductive,” he wrote. “My motivation to work and to provide jobs will be destroyed, and with it, so will your opportunities. If that happens, you can find me in the Caribbean sitting on the beach, under a palm tree, retired, and with no employees to worry about.
“Signed, your boss.”
Experts told ABC News that while Siegel may not have broken any laws, he may have crossed an ethical line.
Harry Holzer, public policy professor at Georgetown University, said other business leaders have openly supported a particular candidate– former Costco CEO Jim Sinegal spoke at the Democratic National Convention and former General Electric CEO Jack Welch has been an outspoken advocate of Romney’s. But directly supporting a candidate is different from strong-arming subordinates, he added.
“They might let it be known that they have preferences but that goes differently than pushing their employees,” Holzer said.
Siegel’s e-mail was forwarded anonymously to the Orlando Sentinel by someone who said, “I feel like my boss is threatening me.”
Siegel told the Sentinel that intimidation was not his intent.
“If an employee walked into my office right now and said, ‘I voted for Obama,’ I’d say ‘Fine. I’m glad you exercised your right to vote,'” he said.
Rather, he said, his e-mail was a reflection of his “obligation to keep them (his employees) informed.”
Siegel is the founder of Westgate Resorts, which employs about 3,200 people in Central Florida and thousands more in other states.
He told the Sentinel that his company’s fortunes have faltered since Obama became president, and he anticipates that the requirements of the Affordable Health Act, known as “Obamacare,” and potential tax increases under an Obama administration could make things worse.
“Over the past four years I have had to stop building my dream house, cut back on all of my expenses, and take my kids out of private schools simply to keep this company strong and to keep you employed…,” he said elsewhere in his e-mail of a planned 90,000 square foot mansion.
“So, when you make your decision to vote, ask yourself, which candidate understands the economics of business ownership and who doesn’t? Whose policies will endanger your job? Answer those questions and you should know who might be the one capable of protecting and saving your job,” he concluded.