Republicans will lie, cheat and steal

Don Blankenship lies about global warming. He cheats his neighbors out of their health as well as cheats his employees out of their dignity on the job. He also steals elections in order to influence court cases in his favor.



EXCERPTS circa 2010:

Blankenship took the abuse from Byrd — and then got on with the business of being Don Blankenship. He recruited a team of heavyweight consultants from the Bush era, including lawyer Robert Luskin, who represented Karl Rove in the Valerie Plame spy case; a PR firm called Public Strategies, run by former Bush communications chief Dan Bartlett; and Dave Lauriski, the head of MSHA under Bush. Together, they cobbled together a survival strategy that Tom Sanzillo, a financial analyst who specializes in coal, calls a ‘blood war’ against MSHA. ‘His goal,’ says Sanzillo, ‘is to turn the tables on investigators and turn the Upper Big Branch disaster into a referendum against the federal government’….

He spent more than $3 million electing a state Supreme Court judge who would provide a favorable verdict in a lawsuit, funneled nearly $1 million into advertising this year to improve coal’s image, and served on the boards of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Mining Association, which has attacked the Obama administration for waging a ‘regulatory jihad’ against coal….

In October 2000, a large slurry pond at a Massey subsidiary in Martin County, Kentucky, broke open and spilled 300 million gallons of black, toxic sludge into surrounding creeks. It was one of the nation’s worst man-made environmental disasters. Massey paid $3.5 million in state fines for the breach, but only $5,600 in federal penalties [settlement reached when George W. Bush was President and in control of the Environmental Protection Agency?].

‘One thing that is hard to take about Don Blankenship is how he betrayed his own people,’ says Bruce Stanley, the lawyer who grew up in Mingo County. ‘West Virginians have always looked at their plight and blamed outsiders: *It’s the coal barons and lumber kings from the North who have come in and stolen our resources, left us poor and broken.* But Blankenship is a Mingo County boy. He took over control of a coal company and rose to the top — and it turned him into an asshole. Blankenship could have easily been a hero, not a villain. He could have said to the people of Appalachia, *Let me show you how to pick yourself up by your bootstraps. Let me show you how to make something of yourself.* Instead he said, *Fuck it — I’m king.*’ ”

If any of this troubles Blankenship, he doesn’t let on. By his own accounting, the bottom line provides all the proof he needs of his virtue. ‘I don’t care what people think,’ he once said during a talk to a gathering of Republican Party leaders in West Virginia. ‘At the end of the day, Don Blankenship is going to die with more money than he needs’….

In 2004, he spent $3 million — an enormous sum in West Virginia politics — to finance a political hit machine to take down Justice Warren McGraw, who was likely to serve as the swing vote in the court’s decision. The group deployed every sleazy trick in the book, accusing McGraw of letting child rapists out of prison and putting them to work in local schools. The smear tactics worked: McGraw was defeated, replaced by an industry-friendly judge backed by Blankenship. In 2007, the court overturned the $50 million verdict against Blankenship by a vote of 3 to 2. His $3 million investment had saved him $47 million.

‘Don didn’t put $3 million into the election because he wanted a fair and balanced court system,’ says Robert Rupp, the political science professor. ‘He wanted to buy himself a favorable verdict.’

But Caperton kept fighting. Then in January 2008, he got a mysterious break: A plain brown envelope was delivered to his attorney by an unknown person. In it were photographs of Blankenship and Spike Maynard, the chief justice of the state Supreme Court, vacationing together on the French Riviera. ‘The photos were visual evidence of what everyone suspected,’ says Caperton. ‘Blankenship was again trying to influence the court’….

As a kid in the 1980s, Mollett remembers filling up a glass of water at the kitchen sink and seeing black stuff floating in it. ‘Sometimes it smelled of rotten egg, sometimes it had a rainbow on top,’ he recalls. The water came from a well out back; families in the area had been drinking water out of the ground for generations. Now, all of a sudden, they started to get sick. In high school, Mollett got rashes, bad ones, on his back and arms. He had diarrhea, stomachaches. In 2000, he was bombing around on his four-wheeler when he suddenly passed out completely. He was rushed to the hospital, where doctors discovered he was in complete kidney failure. He spent three years on dialysis, then finally had a transplant. ‘The doctor told me that my kidney failed because of the water I’d been drinking,’ he says. In addition, two of his sisters suffer from severe kidney problems.

The Molletts aren’t the only ones getting sick. More than 700 people in the immediate vicinity have reported health problems that they believe are related to water from their wells, and four have died from their ailments. Symptoms range from rashes and ruined kidneys to birth defects and brain cancer….

‘The mine disaster was an eye-opening event for us,’ says Brian Bartow, general counsel for the California State Teachers’ Retirement System, a large pension fund that is a major holder in Massey stock. ‘We re-examined the risks that the company was running in the way it does business. In our view, it has a lot in common with the subprime mortgage crisis — there are a lot of risks here that Massey is not acknowledging.’

I ask Bartow if he believes Blankenship should resign. ‘He should,’ he says. ‘He clearly doesn’t get it.’ “



EXCERPTS circa 2001:

“When Bill Raney, the head of the West Virginia Coal Association, walks into a bar in Charleston on a recent evening, the whole place lights up: ”Hey, Bill!” Raney is slim and folksy, with a thick drawl that clashes with his well-tailored blue suit. He has a kind word or a joke for everyone in the room. When the waitress arrives with his Coors Light, she stares at him and says, ”You look familiar.” Raney winks and drawls, ”A face this ugly is kinda hard to forget, ain’t it?”

The day before, a front-page story had appeared in The Wall Street Journal detailing how Raney, along with a local coal baron, James H. Harless, had helped engineer President Bush’s electoral victory in West Virginia last November. The five electoral votes of this longtime Democratic state gave Bush the slim edge he needed to win the presidency. The piece chronicled the grass-roots organizing Raney did on Bush’s behalf, as well as noting that, nationwide, Big Coal donated $3.8 million for the 2000 election, tripling its 1996 contributions. Almost all of that money went to Republicans….

In West Virginia, the immediate fear was that a Gore administration would find a way to crack down on mountaintop-removal mining. But more broadly, it was the looming threat of carbon-dioxide regulations that fired up Big Coal to support Bush. Gore, after all, had written an entire book about the danger of global warming. And there’s nothing that freezes the heart of a coal-company executive like frank talk about greenhouse gases. Cars and coal-fired power plants are the two biggest emitters of carbon dioxide and other gases that are warming the climate. But when the carbon whip comes down, everyone knows whom they’ll go after first. ”We’re walking around with a big bull’s-eye on our foreheads,’ jokes James Rogers, C.E.O. of Cinergy, a Midwestern coal-burning utility….

To shape the debate, Engelhardt was not afraid to put his money where his mouth was. Peabody donated $250,000 to the Republican National Committee during 1999-2000, and Engelhardt himself gave $100,000 to the Bush-Cheney inaugural fund. During the same cycle, Steve Chancellor, the head of Black Beauty Coal, an affiliate that is 82 percent owned by Peabody, gave $344,750 to Republicans. If you add it all up, Peabody, Engelhardt and Engelhardt’s business associates donated close to $700,000 to President Bush and his party last year.

Not surprisingly, Bush named Engelhardt to the transition advisory team for the E.P.A.”



Massey shares rise on Blankenship news



EXCERPT from today’s news via Bloomberg:

“Wall Street is cheering the abrupt retirement of Massey Energy Co. Chief Executive Don Blankenship.

Shares of Massey outpaced most major coal stocks, rising $1.75, or 3.5 percent to $52.17 in afternoon trading Monday.”

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