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Corporate Campaign Bucks Aiming To Stop Mine Safety Rules?

August 9, 2010

CHARLESTON, W. Va. - Two of West Virginia's largest coal companies, International Coal Group and Massey Energy, have announced they want to take advantage of a recent Supreme Court ruling that lets corporations spend any amount on advertising in political campaigns. The companies say they intend to purchase ads in this fall's congressional elections in West Virginia and Kentucky.

Some consider it an attempt to stop the new mine safety rules Congress began writing after the Upper Big Branch disaster. Julie Archer tracks political money issues as a project manager for West Virginia Citizen Action.

"They want to spend, on behalf of these candidates, blood money. Massey Energy and ICG are two of the companies with the worst safety records out there."

Two of the three candidates who would be supported by the ads are in races against congressmen who have sponsored tighter mine safety rules. The third candidate says he thinks the federal government already has too much power to regulate mine safety.

Archer says big coal money in campaigns has been unpopular in the past. She favors the rules that had been filibustered by Senate Republicans, that would have required disclosure of how much is being spent and by whom. Archer cites the example of Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship's funding of ads in the 2004 election at the state level.

"By the time people found out who was behind the ads, the election was over. The State Legislature passed a disclosure law. Blankenship tried to do the same thing in 2006. He wasn't as successful."

No one from Massey would comment for this report; a spokesman for ICG denied that the company wants to influence mine safety rules, but would not answer questions.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV