From The Colorado Independent's John Tomasic.

The 2012 election season has seen a surprising uptick in the number of employers willing to wade into voter intimidation gray areas by notifying their employees that their jobs depend on who wins the White House. The not so subtle message: Vote the way your boss wants you to vote.

Stories coming out of Minnesota and Florida, for example, featuring Koch Industries subsidiary Georgia Pacific and Westgate Resorts, sound like updates to textbook chapters on the kind of 19th-century industrialists who worked to make sure their friends held all the political offices that mattered.

Chris Smith, the owner of Pagosa, Colorado, senior home care company Visiting Angels, joined other contemporary thin-line-walking execs this month when he sent an email to employees (pdf) arguing that Republican candidate Mitt Romney would work to repeal the Affordable Care Act and that repeal of the federal health care law would save their jobs.

“For the sake of the 80 people working for Visiting Angels and your own paycheck, remember, on November 3, it will be a close presidential race,” he wrote in the email. “Please VOTE!”

Watchdog group Colorado Ethics Watch has argued that, in the Centennial State at least, Smith’s letter amounts to illegal voter intimidation. Director Luis Toro sent a letter (pdf) today to Todd Risberg, DA for the Sixth Judicial District, asking him to launch an investigation into the matter.

Toro told the Colorado Independent that people have misinterpreted the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling to mean companies can now frighten voters as part of their free speech.

“Corporations are free to pay for political ads but not to intimidate voters,” he said. “It’s important that we send a message that this is not OK in Colorado.”

Toro said that voter intimidation laws vary from state to state but that in Colorado the statute is clear.

“The language is outdated,” he said, “but we think an e-mail counts as a contemporary ‘notice’ of the kind [mentioned in the statute].”

The Colorado law states that “[Any] handbill, notice or placard containing any threat, notice or information that, if any particular ticket or candidate is elected, work in [the] establishment will be closed, or the wages of the workmen will be reduced…”

Smith told the Durango Herald he thought his note to employees was tame compared to those sent by men like Koch Industry President Dave Robertson and Westgate CEO David Siegel.

“I thought I toned mine down,” Smith said and added that he was attempting to persuade not coerce.

Toro called the e-mail a “throwback to the bad old days” and said that, if found guilty of the misdemeanor violation, Smith could face jail time, a fine or the loss of his business license.

DA Risberg didn’t immediately return calls for comment.

Also on HuffPost:

Loading Slideshow...
  • Obama Doubled The Deficit

    When Obama took office in 2009, the deficit was projected to be $1.2 trillion during that year, and it <a href="">ultimately turned out to be $1.4 trillion</a>, according to Congressional Budget Office data cited by <em>The New York Times</em>. The deficit is expected to be $1.1 trillion for fiscal year 2012.

  • Obamacare Killed Jobs

    The Congressional Budget Office estimates that healthcare reform will reduce the health care industry's workforce <a href="">by only about 0.5 percent</a>, largely because workers will decide to retire early or work fewer hours. And if Romney's Massachusetts health care reform law is any indication, job loss won't be a big problem; employment trends in the state have mirrored national trends since Romneycare took effect.

  • Dodd-Frank Hurt The Housing Market

    The Dodd-Frank regulations aim to prevent another housing crash like the one that helped to cause the 2008 financial meltdown by <a href="">banning high-risk lending practices</a>, according to CBS News. In addition, the housing market has <a href="">been on a slow rebound</a> since Obama took office. If anything, it may be banks that are holding back the housing recovery. Many are <a href="">slow to lend</a> because they're concerned Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will make them take back any bad loans, the <em>Wall Street Journal</em> reports.

  • Medicare Cuts

    The indirect effects of Obamacare have yet to be determined, since the law has yet to be implemented. But as the law is written now, <a href="">Obamacare doesn't cut seniors' benefits</a> as part of its plan to curb health care costs, according to <em>USA Today</em>. Obama's healthcare law would curb benefits to health care providers and insurers, but doesn't directly cut seniors' benefits. <a href="">Critics allege however</a>, that the cuts in payments would have the unintended consequence of hurting seniors because doctors would stop accepting Medicare patients, according to <em>USA Today</em>.

  • Health Care Panel

    Though Obamacare does create an independent board,<a href=""> the law prohibits the board</a> from making recommendations to "ration health care," or "otherwise restrict benefits or modify eligibility,” according to Bloomberg.

  • Employer-Based Health Insurance

    Some workers may switch from their employer-provided health plans, according to the Congressional Budget Office, but that number is more likely to be closer to <a href="">between 3 and 5 million</a> per year between 2019 and 2022.

  • "Trickle-Down Government"

    President Obama's proposed budget is estimated to <a href="">cut about $1.1 trillion</a> over the next 10 years and, so far, Obama has signed $2 trilion worth of spending cuts into law, according to Democratic Party Pollster Bernard Whitman.

  • Balancing The Budget

    President Bill Clinton managed to balance the budget during his time in office with a <a href="">tax boost for those in the top 2 percent </a>of earners, according to Duke professor William Chafe.

  • Adding To The Deficit

    Romney's tax plan would<a href=""> cost the country $4.8 trillion</a> over the next 10 years, according to Tax Policy Center data, cited by NBC News.

  • Clean Energy Failures

    Businesses that got government clean energy loans failed at a rate of <a href="">about 1.4 percent</a> at the end of 2011, according to <em>The Washington Pos</em>t.