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Utah Mine Owner Accused of Breaking Campaign Donor 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

SALT LAKE CITY - Last month, as Murray Energy agreed on a settlement amount with the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) to end the investigation of the 2007 Crandall Canyon mine disaster in Emery County, 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 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."

Murray Energy has 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.

According to MacGillis, Murray has raised $1.4 million for GOP candidates since 2007, including $120,000 for this year's Romney presidential campaign.

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

Murray calls charges that he uses donations to build political connections to fight enforcement of federal mine safety and environmental laws "exaggerated." In late September, Murray agreed to pay $950,000 to end the MSHA's civil investigation into the Crandall Canyon mine deaths.

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

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - UT