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This Man Was Just Indicted for 29 Miners’ Deaths, He is Also a Huge GOP Donor

In West Virginia, the coal industry runs deep and coal money talks loud.

Now, in no real shock to anyone,  it turns out that the man responsible for one of the state’s worst coal mining disasters was also padding the pockets of the Republican Party.

Don Blankenship, who was not so affectionately dubbed the ‘Dark Lord of Coal Country’ made his wealth by scrimping on safety measures at his coal mines.

The results were devastating. In 2010, 29 miners lost their lives at Upper Big Branch Mine (UBB)  in Montcoal, West Virginia because Blankenship and his Massey Energy company put profits before people.

According to the 43-page indictment, Blankenship “knew that UBB was committing hundreds of safety-law violations every year and that he had the ability to prevent most of the violations that UBB was commit. Yet he fostered and participated in an understanding that perpetuated UBB’s practice of routine safety violations, in order to produce more coal, avoid the costs of following safety laws, and make more money.”

Now, it seems Blankenship was all using his ill-gotten gain to lobby the Republican Party to stop ‘intrusive’ mining regulations and wage war on the EPA.

An investigation conducted by Open Secrets in 2010, shows that Mitch McConnell, Eric Cantor, John McCain and Jim Inhofe all benefited from Blankenship’s ‘generosity.’

A report by the WV Dems also suggests that  WV Reps. David McKinley and Shelley Moore Capito (now a Senator-elect), both banned with Blankenship to sway elections in the Mountain State, helping to make sure ‘industry-friendly’ delegates were elected.

While it is impossible to trace her votes directly to Blankenship cash, it seems that Blankenship’s influence may have paid off, at least with West Virginia’s newest Senator.

While sitting in the U.S. House of Representatives, Capito  voted four times to reduce funding for federal mine inspectors and mine safety efforts, despite representing a constituency chock full of miners whose families count on them to come safely home.

Even more troubling, when fellow West Virginian legislator Senator Robert Byrd proposal a bill after the  deadly UBB disaster to prevent mine deaths, Capito was the only West Virginian to vote against the measure that would have demanded more accountability from Big Coal.

Photo Credit: Tree Hugger

About the author

Tamar is a New York based freelance writer and photographer whose work has appeared in over 15 publications. You can catch her work regularly on Issue Hawk, Latest, Jspace, and MediaGlobal.