Meet David A. Siegel.
Siegel is the founder and CEO of Westgate Resorts, the largest privately-owned timeshare company in the world. As CEO, he’s accomplished a lot: he downsized his 11,000-strong workforce to fewer than 7,000, was found guilty of repeatedly sexually harassing and propositioning an employee (he’s appealing the ruling), was fined almost $1 million for violating the Federal Trade Commission’s telemarketing sales provisions, and is in the process of building one of America’s largest private residences, a 90,000 square foot marble-encrusted mansion modeled after the famed palace of Versailles. Siegel has boasted that he acquired 2,000 Floridian votes for George W. Bush in the 2000 presidential election. Al Gore lost Florida by 537 votes, costing him the presidency. In 2007, Forbes estimated Siegel’s net worth at $1 billion; Siegel claimed it was much higher (as high as $1.7 billion).
Now, meet Bobby Newport.
Bobby is a character on the NBC sitcom Parks and Recreation, played by Paul Rudd, who runs against Amy Poehler’s protagonist Leslie Knope in a local election. The son of the CEO of fictional candy conglomerate Sweetums, Bobby is adorably inept and clearly unfit for any position other than “corporate tool”, let alone political office.
Siegel and Bobby have something in common: they’ve both tried to scare workers into voting according to their agenda.
In season four of Parks and Rec, Bobby Newport and Leslie Knope debate in anticipation of the local Pawnee city council election. When Leslie shows a clearly superior intellect and knowledge of bureaucracy, Bobby reveals that, should Leslie win the election and raise taxes, his father will close his company’s Pawnee factory. Cosidering the factory is the city’s largest employer, this effectively terrifies the crowd into rallying behind Bobby’s candidacy. And this is apparently where David Siegel turned off the TV.
Siegel decided to take a page from this sitcom’s book and sent an interesting email to his 6,500+ employees on Monday. The full text of the email can be found at the NBC news link here.
To All My Valued Employees,
As most of you know our company, Westgate Resorts, has continued to succeed in spite of a very dismal economy. There is no question that the economy has changed for the worse and we have not seen any improvement over the past four years. In spite of all of the challenges we have faced, the good news is this: The economy doesn’t currently pose a threat to your job. What does threaten your job however, is another 4 years of the same Presidential administration. (…)
So where am I going with all this? It’s quite simple. If any new taxes are levied on me, or my company, as our current President plans, I will have no choice but to reduce the size of this company. Rather than grow this company I will be forced to cut back. This means fewer jobs, less benefits and certainly less opportunity for everyone. (…)
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.
You see, I can no longer support a system that penalizes the productive and gives to the unproductive. 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,
Leslie Knope is not amused.
When Bobby tries this crap on Parks and Rec, Leslie is shocked. Because this is not okay. It makes a farce of the political system that Leslie loves. So when she can speak without screaming incoherently with rage, she says, in what is possibly the most uncannily and horrifyingly relevant sitcom speech ever:
I’m very angry. Angry Bobby Newport would hold this town hostage & threaten to leave if you don’t give him what he wants. It’s despicable. Corporations are not allowed to dictate what a city needs. That power belongs to the people. Bobby Newport and his daddy would like you to think it belongs to them. I love this town. And when you love something, you don’t punish it. You fight for it. You take care of it. You put it first.
David Siegel’s employees are a means to an end for him, and if they don’t put his wealth above everything, he will fire them. This goes beyond partisan squabbling, incoherent bootstrap rhetoric and Reaganesque trickle-down economic theory: very simply, this dude sucks. He’s playing with people’s livelihoods. And this is the kind of corporate corruption we’re supposed to ignore?
David Siegel claims this isn’t about him, but about his workers, and that’s the only sensible point he’s made. He’s not threatening characters on a television show. This is real life. Siegel is literally acting like a caricature of an old, rich CEO throwing a tantrum about raising taxes on his multimillion dollar company. He says he’s been unfairly prosecuted because he’s “a wealthy guy”–no, Mr. Siegel, it’s because you’re a criminal trying to bully his employees into voting for the big-business lackey politician who will help you hit the Forbes 400.
Reader submission by Rachel Hatfield