The audio: In a newly discovered audio clip recorded in June, Mitt Romney urges entrepreneurs to tell their employees which presidential candidate they should vote for to protect "your enterprise and therefore their job." (Listen to the lengthy recording below.) Romney, speaking in a conference call with the conservative National Federation of Independent Business, tells business owners that they should "make it very clear" how they feel about him and about President Obama. Romney says they should do so regardless of whether they support him or Obama, although he argues that the president is "hostile to small business, and to business overall." Romney assures the listeners there is "nothing illegal about you talking to your employees about what you believe is best for the business." The recording emerged as Romney is still contending with attacks over a leaked video in which he essentially says that the 47 percent of Americans who pay no federal taxes are government moochers who refuse to take responsibility for their lives. Is this a fresh setback for Romney, or was he merely encouraging business owners to exercise their right to free speech?
The reaction: Romney endorsed "voter intimidation," pure and simple, says Janet Shan at The Hinterland Gazette. He's calling for just the kind of "threats we are hearing from one of the Koch brothers and two other wealthy business owners threatening their employees with job losses if they don't vote for Mitt Romney." Hold on, the Koch brothers aren't trying to intimidate anybody, Greg Guest, a spokesman for Koch-owned paper company Georgia-Pacific, tells NBC News. They're merely telling employees that four more years of Obama would mean "higher gasoline prices, runaway inflation, and other ills." Look, business owners have every right to express their views, says Margaret Hartmann at New York. "Still, a recording of Romney commiserating with presumably wealthy employers about how to influence their subordinates' votes isn't exactly a great image for a candidate pushing the idea that he's all about 'the 100 percent.'" Listen to the recording for yourself:
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