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Thorn: Rep. McKinley Should Return Money from Mine Operator

Official Photo of Rep. David B. McKinley, P.E.
Official Photo of Rep. David B. McKinley, P.E.
August 21, 2012

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Federal records show one of Congressman David McKinley's largest campaign donors is Murray Energy, the mine company owned by Robert Murray. Mine safety experts say Murray was directly responsible for the deaths of nine miners at Crandall Canyon in Utah in 2007, and McKinley's opponent says the congressman should return Murray's money.

Sue Thorn says McKinley let Murray host a fundraiser for him this spring, despite the mining company having one of the worst safety records in the industry. She says McKinley calls himself a friend of miners, but votes to block black-lung disease protections and better safety rules.

"He is voting with the people who are giving him money, people like Don Blankenship and Robert Murray. To pretend that he is somehow caring about coal miners is very hypocritical."

Despite multiple phone calls and e-mails, including written questions submitted to his office, McKinley has refused to comment.

According to the Mine Safety and Health Administration, the roof at Murray's Crandall Canyon mine collapsed because the company was removing supporting pillars to get at the remaining coal.

The former head of the National Mine Safety and Health Academy says Robert Murray personally chose what was known to be an unsafe practice. Jack Spadaro calls Murray's actions a "principal cause" of the accident that killed six miners and three of the rescue workers who went in after them.

"You'll see Bob Murray's hand in the events that led up to the mine disaster that resulted in the deaths of nine miners."

Until the Upper Big Branch disaster in West Virginia in April 2010, Crandall Canyon had resulted in the largest-ever MSHA fines. But Spadaro says Murray has a history of using his political influence to help him cut corners. Murray did not return a call requesting comment.

McKinley has a full-size poster of a coal miner in his office and tells visitors he's in Washington to represent miners like that one. To Spadaro, it's hypocrisy.

"There's no question about that, he's a hypocrite. He may say that and have that poster in his office, but he hasn't done anything to further the interests of miners and to make their workplace safe."

More on the Crandall Canyon Disaster is at

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV