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The following program is made possible through a grant from nation's business. Is Business Roundtable a program of current comment from leading members of America's business community. Today Thomas R. Reed director of civic and governmental affairs for the Ford Motor Company and Donald Young vice president for corporate communications Burroughs corporation will explore the topic. Business and business men in politics with series host of The Graduate School of Business Administration at Michigan State University 1968 being an election year. When we again go to the polls and elect our president as well as many state municipal officials politics is certainly going to be in the air. It's appropriate there for that business roundtable
at this session to discuss some of the aspects of business and business men in politics. Mr. Reed what do you think about the concept of business and business men in politics. How do you define this aspect of the subject. First of all Dean Staley business is not in politics or is it better not be legally and morally business as a firm or as a corporation cannot be and politics and as a company should not be individuals who are business bad and very definitely should be in my opinion active in politics and public affairs and the corporation and the business firm. It seems to me he should take a particular interest in public affairs issues and government. But that of course is distinguished from political interest which would mean support a candidate. In other words you see what you call Governmental Affairs is different than politics definitely so.
I think I'd like to add that the real point should be made that a corporation is not an individual. It might have responsibilities some of which might be the same as individuals such as. The link that corporations have responsibilities to their communities and perhaps to the nation and to their employees and their stockholders. But they do not function as an individual obviously therefore can't vote. Well what does the corporation as a corporation do in this entire area. Many things including for example maintaining governmental relations. Most businesses today recognize as a business fact of life that government exists and that government has an effect on their day to day operations obviously any legislation that has to do with anything affecting business practices is of of importance to the company. Therefore in my view the corporation and the business firm of whatever size should express
itself on public issues in which it has an attrition make its views known. It should make an attempt to get to know all the governmental officials in its jurisdiction. That includes the city and the county in the state in which it operates its plants and offices as well as the nation. It should get to know the congressman from the district in which its operations are located and maintain a relationship with these people. When are you a dialogue are you talking here about what is commonly called lobbying activities. Well this is a governmental relations and lobbying is a part of it. Now the new concept of lobbying is quite different from the old. The lobbyist is less an influencer of legislators these days and more a provider of facts and statistics and background which the legislator Rick SAP's is obviously biased because he knows from whence it comes. But since he gets the same information from those of opposing views he makes his
judgement based on a consideration of the facts from all sides. Well Mr Young What about what's your view about the lobbying lobbying activities here. Well I think it's it's a shame that. Lobbying as such seems to have a negative connotation when really this this is the basis of our democratic society I believe. Certainly the legislators whether they be congressmen or state legislators need to know their points of view of the teachers at universities labor unions business. It's only by having this input that they can come up with legislation that is good for the country as a whole nother would you it up hold the view of that business along with other types of organizations in our country should always make their views fully known to legislative people in all levels of government. Indeed I think they need to do more of it. I heard that definition one time at a statesman as a politician who's held upright by equal pressure from all directions. When a politician faces a fact of
his life that he's going to be subjected to pressures from his constituents. And I contend that if he fails to hear from one side of the constituency and hears from others then he's not getting all he needs to make the right judgments. What about the role of trade associations and in this area. Now there are large numbers of different types of trade associations some of them stablished by industry groups some to which all industries regardless of the products they make belong and some organized rather a functional basis. What's the role of the trade association as a spokesman for business in any of these kinds of activities. Well the role is a very effective role I believe but it is it also requires that businessmen participate and I dare say that most business organizations do sponsor their own trade associations whether it be with pharmaceuticals or automotive or office equipment or
what have you. Generally speaking the. The companies that are represented in these. Broad organizations do participate on committees. They provide input so that the trade association can also be represented in the halls of Congress and the state legislature. Now my observation has been that many times not all of the business corporations in this country this country are united on a given public policy issue. Fact it seems to me that many times there is not what you might call a Big Ag business view on a subject there are business views which may be divergent. A recent illustration I noticed the corporate officers of some corporations recently coming out very strongly publicly for a tax increase saying we need this to a combat inflation and to help balance the budget. We need it immediately.
We've had some other corporate officials that have come out and said they don't think this is necessary at this time we should wait a little longer and see if it's really needed. Is this basically as you see it Mr. Reed business is speaking with one voice. I don't think there's any such thing as a business point of view as a matter of fact I'm not at all sure that there's any such thing as a Labor point of view which represents the opinion of all members of organized labor. I doubt very much that there is such a thing as a block of opinion among people. We do have a certain degree of agreement and this is fine so long as it can exist. But then there always is an area in which there are differences of opinion and in my opinion the best way to get all the decisions made in the right way is to get all the points of view out on the table and look out. I had an interesting personal experience in this regard to a tax increase in the state and as a looking at it as a corporate.
Individual or part of a corporation I really thought a tax was justified and I strongly supported it. And it passed and we are having income tax now. But you know the other day when the form came in the mail and I looked at it I sort of wondered you know I sort of resented seeing it there. I was I was acting as an individual that case you were a separate going to the bill at that time. Mr. Young like so many other businessman became aware of the impact of this after the act was already enacted. So that's unfortunately what happens in all too many instances in business participation in public affairs they wait until the deed is done and then they express themselves. Let's look at another facet of this subject about business and businessmen and politics. Should a corporation encourage a simple oids to dissipate
in politics is this something that consciously or corporation should make a decision a corporate decision and saying this is desirable. We want our people to participate. Or should they take a neutral attitude or should they say we don't want them to participate. Well I think they should. Now this comes about because I happen to have a firm belief that the best democracy is that democracy under which most citizens participate and participate actively. If this is accepted as a promise then whether a person happens to be an employee of a business organization or whether it happens to be engaged in some other occupation he ought to be personally active as a citizen. I want fortunately and I can't tell you precisely how it came about. Up until a few years ago there were all too many employees of business firms who really thought that their employers would. Not favor their being active in the
political party of their choice. Therefore it seems to me that so long as this exists it's. Incumbent upon the employer to make a declaration of the fact that he does not object to that as an order that the employee knows where he stands. Has your company the Ford Motor Corporation done this. Yes we have as a matter of written policy and have made it publics of all our employees are aware of it. Sad that we encourage our employees as private citizens and individuals to become active in the political party of their choice to contribute to it and to make expressions of their views on public affairs. What's the Burroughs Corp. position on this question. We if we indeed have done the same thing and I certainly share Mr Reid's feelings that it is a very important thing for an employer to do. Particularly relative to a written policy in this regard so the employee knows the management's position and I think it's sort of a shame that it would
have to be written. But I nevertheless I think that it should be clearly stated and the employees should know that his points of view do not have to be that of their president as it were or any other executive that he is an individual and should serve his country well by expressing these points of view. Let's assume that one of your employees and a plant anyplace in the country where you've got an operation cited to run for mayor. I would. Would your company give him time off to do this. I think Mr. Reed is a case in point. One of their employees indeed did run for mayor. Perhaps you can tell how you handled this. Yes we've we've had quite a few As a matter of fact to have not only run but have been elected out of many thousands of employees. This this has occurred in many localities and are a feeling with respect to what it is that while we encourage this as we encourage activity in the political party of
the employees choice if he chooses to become a candidate rather than a party worker or something else we cannot as a company paid for the cost of his campaigning our grant him time with pay to do so because this artifact is use of company funds for political purposes. And this is prohibited by law. But you would encourage him to run if he wanted to. Yes but it's up to him to work out his time arrangements and his financial arrangements. But in general he would have time that would be required let's assume he was elected to perform his duties. Let's put it this way. There are several hundred who are actively engaged in school boards and in city councils and a legion township boards and state legislatures and maintaining at the same time positions with the company. Is this true or do you think with many other companies. I think generally speaking to get into context I think really
that management's attitude that they are considerably different than maybe what they were 20 years ago. I believe that more and more companies are taking this point of view and are. Realizing that it is not only beneficial to them as an organization certainly is beneficial to the country. So I think that even even though we still have a long way to go before businesses all do this that the day will come along just minding Samy I think it might be of interest to dredge up a couple of statistics to show this trend. I can recall five or six years ago. A national survey to determine how many companies actually were. Making this subject of governmental relations and encouraging employees to be active in governmental affairs and so forth are part of their management activities in other words they've taken some specific actions such as setting up a man in charge of the operation or something of the
sort to indicate their interest in the subject at that time five or six years ago or there were only about 400 companies that were doing anything like this. A similar survey was taken. About a year and a half ago. And at that time the Figure out of 4000 responding corporations and businesses of all sizes throughout the United States ran between a thousand eleven hundred who were conducting such activities now. I can't say for sure because we're talking about the main street merchant as well as the giant corporation. But we can gas that some 25 percent perhaps of business firms have now taken some sort of step. To be active in this regard. This is a big change isn't it. And what is laid in a relatively short period I don't think it's worth pointing out that you don't have to be a billion dollar corporation like Ford Motor Company or like Burroughs corporation or a major corporation to have a program or to encourage
your employees to participate. I think that it should be a program adopted by the local merchants as Mr. Reed mentioned and I believe that it should be encouraged. That in turn encourage their employees to participate. What about in terms of participation of employees in the encouragement of this what about this whole area of political contributions. Well it's a sensitive area but at the same time a vastly important one from the subject of maintaining the kind of government that we want to maintain. You know the first duty of a statesman is to get himself elected lassies a politician first he never becomes a statesman. So he has to face the electorate and he has to buy television time and he has to buy advertising and he has to put posters up and it costs money. Cost money to run a political party. Even when we're not in a campaign year political party yet spend money for staff and offices. So this means that the cost of our system has to be paid by somebody now it
can't be paid by corporate funds. And there isn't. So it must be paid by individuals and unless we're going to have a system where too few individuals are making all of the payments and therefore have too much control the thing we should do is to encourage a wide base of support financially. That's what we're trying to do with our program on political contributions. We say to our employees once a year usually in the spring. We just want to remind you of that if you care to contribute to the political party of your choice. Here's a convenient way in which you can do it and we have a sealed envelope system so that they can put in their check and mark the outside and seal it so that nobody knows which party or which candidate they're supporting or how much money isn't involved but then the outside of the album opens mark so they know where to send it. Now most of them have never been asked to contribute to a political party would know where to send the check even if they wanted to and this at least provides a
reminder and a convenient mechanism to do so. And this is what you know what do you think of a corporation doing this improper a thing in your opinion. I think of encouraging political contributions. I need to begin with you have to recognize I believe I recall the statistics right that in the last nation election. All of the funds were collected by only 10 percent of those who voted. That sounds reasonable. Yes just now it's probably roughly right and therefore it does certainly behoove us to try to spread this out. There's no question about it. I think you get into a rather delicate area as many times with your employees in in asking them to contribute. We we do it at my company and we try to do it on an annual basis whether there's a campaign such as will have this year or not. Generally speaking each year we do it I think we're in our fourth year now and each year it has generated at least
more envelopes I don't know what's inside the box we have the same kind of a program that was to read this book. And generally speaking that we hear less complaints about it too it was so I think it's a matter of getting used to that I think it's a matter of recognizing it we've had some very fine there. Compliments from them. Is this a type of program been increasing more and I think it is has it has it has caught on the companies have decided that that this is something that they can do to be helpful and I think by and large it's being used by many thousands of companies all over again. Another point is that it serves as a defensive mechanism because we we call it give a voice for all it is you know that you're inundated with requests from candidates and parties and so for than if you had participated in this program we believe this is the right way to go. Well this is another pretty fundamental change in corporate thinking then isn't it because you don't
have to go back too many years and I doubt very much if any corporations the United States who are doing this sort of thing of actually an organized program of asking Contrave their employees if they wanted to make a contribution to the party of their choice. You might think back to the origin of the idea. The fact is that a great deal of our charity fundraising these days use is the company or the corporation as a nucleus for its solicitation. Now if it works for charitable and educational solicitation of individual contributions once a year companies reasoned why shouldn't we say that the same thing would apply to political contributions to the party the employees choice because government have obviously is just as respectable as as charitable activities. Why not. So they simply apply the same idea to that. Right now let's look at another aspect of the problem we're talking about. Number of companies have instituted programs or
political action programs for employees. Just what do these embrace most young What's And what's involved a company political action type program for employees. Well I think political action is another way of saying that you are providing. For your employer an opportunity to become acquainted with either the incumbent congressman pointed with the methods of election processes acquainted with how they as an individual can participate at the precinct level how they. I really have hit as an individual in this structure of democracy are these organized programs courses. Certain times is it mandatory that people go to them. Oh I think without exception they are provided as opportunities. Are usually there after working hours. Which you're available to the employer is there bipartisan both
parties usually participate in the sense that many times you will have invited into such a program the. Representatives of both parties who will be speak for their parties. So it really gives the individual or the employee a familiarity with an area that possibly he doesn't have an opportunity to become familiar with. Mr Reed is the Ford Ford Motor Company of a program of this general nature we have done this a lie do you have any other why. What's the reason we did it. Largely because we felt that the average Joe. Business employee didn't know as much as he ought to know about how the two party system works and how the parties operate. So we looked upon it as a chance who are interested in oil. We we didn't make it compulsory by any means we offered an after hours for those who volunteered to attend and provided a discussion leader in a meeting room. Those who were
interested went through a course of about 8 1 hour sessions. They say a week apart and they learned a great deal about how the political system operates. Here many companies have programs of somewhat similar nature. We asked this. This is a a regular practice now we have followed up with those who have graduated from these courses and became a little bit interested and wanted to explore further into the mysteries of this governmental and political system and learn something about both what we call know your government seminars and these are conducted plants throughout the country where employees have a chance to beat the local mayor and hear something about the problems of the city or they beat the congressman and hear what's on his mind. Maybe the governor will come in or a member of the state legislature and they become familiar with the problems of government at least for the both salaried employees and wage hourly wage
earners or one of the other tasks we have concentrated on salaried employees the unions do a very thorough job of this sort of thing with their members you know if you feel the unions are taking care of the Union membership of the wage earners primarily in this area. Well we feel that that. Part has been covered perhaps Bastien the other part and we felt it was an odd obligation of ours to see that our salaried people that started the star opened for everyone oh yeah such are open in other words either group doesn't cover it. Yes and the nature of the SEs are obviously not to. You your employee with a management point of view but these are greatly endorsed by The Post political parties and they dissipate and they hope that now that you are bringing both political parties into some of the organization and thinking in the development of these raw grams it was always interesting to me that. We literally did not have difficulty in getting these
important elected political officials and party leaders and county chairman and state chairman and so on to attend such meetings but they actually welcomed the opportunity. Most of them have never had such a chance to meet such people. They strongly endorse it. You know this being an election year reminds me that at the last presidential election we had the chief executive officers a number of large American corporations coming out publicly and endorsing it can certain candidate for the presidency and then announcing that they were also giving financial contribution within the law to. The party supporting that particular candidate. What about. About this sort of thing is there some concept the chief executive officer saying I am going to vote and support candidate x think he's the best man is this going to intimidate some of the employees should this be done as a
matter of policy. What do you think about that. Well it's a good question. I I say it's a good question because it is who is to deny a chief executive officer of his rights as a citizen. He certainly has a right that anyone else has to contribute to vote to endorse the other hand that is he represents a body of people or a group of people. His pronouncements publicly could lead or be thought of as lending and influence. In other words does this endorsement mean that people would be influenced within the company or without a company to voters or perhaps he suggests that he's going to vote for and torsos candidates. I don't really know the answer. I happen to have had an experience that in the last campaign last. National campaign run by a president that at that time endorsed
that publicly. Mr. Johnson and I had a number of we had a number of letters from stockholders and business associates and so forth who felt that he should have done this. We tried to make it very clear that he was acting for himself he was not acting. In the representation of the company or the corporation. Mr. Reed You had exactly the same type of problem in the last presidential election of a chief executive officer of the Ford Motor Company also publicly endorsed one of the candidates for the presidency. I don't think it was a problem Dean Staley The fact is that unless you're saying that the business executive loses his rights of citizenship when he assumes a top position with his company and I don't think anybody wants to say that. Actually you know we must protect their right to anybody to speak out on his views as a citizen. I would think that the more such expressions we have the better off we are. We should know where people
stand and if they choose to make their views known so much the better. In other words there is a fear that. Much of the electorate would like the electorate would like to know where some public figures stand whether they're corporate executives or foundation officials or university presidents. And although this may have some influence that this still does not intimidate anybody I think we need to occur at a time when I'm not on the Business Roundtable and I certainly thank your Mr Raydon Mr Young for appearing. Participating in today's business roundtable where Thomas artillery director of civic and governmental affairs for the Ford Motor Company and Donald Egon vice president for corporate communication Rose corporation host for the program was Alfred Elsie Lee Dean of the Graduate School of Business Administration at Michigan State University. The topic for next
week's Business Roundtable is Congress and business in 1968. Guests on the program will be Jack Welch great editor of nations business and Wilbur Martin associate editor of the nation's business. This program was produced by the Graduate School of Business Administration and the Broadcasting Services of Michigan State University under a grant from nation's business a publication of the Chamber of Commerce of the United States. Business Roundtable is distributed through the facilities of national educational radio. This is an E.R. the national educational radio network.
Business roundtable
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17 Of 26
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Michigan State University
WKAR (Radio/television station : East Lansing, Mich.)
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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This prog.: Business and Businessmen in Politics. Guests: Thomas R. Reid of Ford Motor Co., Donald E. Young of Burroughs Corp., and host Alfred L. Seelye, Michigan State U.
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A program of current comment from leading members of America's business community.
Global Affairs
Public Affairs
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Host: Seelye, Alfred L.
Producing Organization: Michigan State University
Producing Organization: WKAR (Radio/television station : East Lansing, Mich.)
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 68-41-7 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
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Duration: 00:29:24
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APA: Business roundtable; 17 Of 26. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from