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Ohio Mine Owner Accused Of Breaking Campaign Laws

4/7/12 memo signed by Bob Murray which publicly names employees who have not given, and saying he feels "insulted" by them. Courtesy Alec MacGillis and The New Republic.
4/7/12 memo signed by Bob Murray which publicly names employees who have not given, and saying he feels "insulted" by them. Courtesy Alec MacGillis and The New Republic.
October 17, 2012

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Last month, as Ohio-based Murray Energy agreed on a settlement amount with the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration to end the investigation of the 2007 Crandall Canyon mine disaster in Utah, another type of investigation was under way: The company's chief executive, Bob Murray, is being accused of breaking federal campaign finance laws.

Murray is drawing fire for pressuring his managers to donate to Republican political candidates and to his own political action committee. Reporter Alec MacGillis, who published company fundraising memos in The New Republic magazine, says they were confirmed by sources inside Murray's mining empire.

"They were expected to give. They were expected to give to the PAC, as a deduction from their paycheck. Typically 1 percent of their pay would go to the PAC. And they were also expected to give to Mr. Murray's separate personal fundraisers."

An e-mail message from Murray Energy called the fundraising "voluntary," and the charges politically motivated, "incorrect and dishonest." Murray has 15 days to respond to the complaint filed against him at the Federal Elections Commission.

MacGillis says his sources were afraid to reveal their names. He says they and the memos describe relentless fundraising efforts that included thinly veiled threats.

MacGillis says his sources also told him that at least some of the money essentially was coming from the company itself, laundered through an employee bonus program.

"Their understanding that they got from their superiors was that this would be made up to them. The sense that my sources had was that that discretionary part of the bonus was to some degree dependent on their participating."

Campaign finance watchdogs in other coal-producing states say the charges against Murray are particularly important because of his history. Julie Archer, project manager for the West Virginia Citizen Action Group, claims Murray uses his donations to build political connections, which he in turn uses to fight enforcement of federal environmental and mine-safety laws.

"What Mr. Murray had done in the past was suggest to employees of MSHA that he had some sway over their boss through his political contributions."

Murray has described that accusation as exaggerated.

The FEC complaint is online at citizensforethics.org. The New Republic article is at tnr.com. Murray's response can be viewed here.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH