This article originally provided by The Logan Banner

September 1, 2006

Casey speaks against Blankenship

MELVILLE
By MARTHA SPARKS, Society Editor

— In a marathon run of seven West Virginia cities in one day, the state Democratic Committee chairman is spreading a new Democratic slogan — “Don, WV’s Not For Sale!”

Armed with posters, questionnaires and bumper stickers, W.Va. Democratic Executive Committee Chairman Nick Casey arrived at the Logan County Airport Wednesday afternoon in a statewide Democratic effort at thwarting Massey Energy leader Don Blankenship in his efforts to oust Democrats from the state government with large monetary donations to Republican candidates.

Meeting with Casey to aid in spreading the word were several local members of the United Mine Workers Coal Miner Political Action Committee (COMPAC), a few concerned citizens and W.Va. Delegate Lidella Wilson-Hrutkay.

Ron Chambers, spokesperson for the COMPAC members, said they were there to aid in making people aware of Don Blankenship.

“We’re trying to make people aware of Don Blankenship and his move to take over the complete political system for his self,” Chambers said. “He’s trying to take it over…monopolize it. He’s trying to determine who gets elected and who’s not. We have a problem with it.”

Chambers admitted that he thought Don Blankenship, who reportedly gets $33 million a year as CEO of Massey Energy, has enough money to sway state voters to vote his way.

“In the court justice he bought recently, it’s pretty evident. He bought that seat for Benjamin,” Chambers said. “Money goes a long way. We have to offset this someway. He said he was going to impact a lot of these races and what we’d like to see is for him to get back into his coal business and get some safety for his men instead of worrying about who the politicians are.”

Although a severe thunderstorm in Huntington delayed Casey from his appointed time of 1:30 p.m., when his small plane landed an hour later, Casey wasted no time in getting down to his business.

“You UMWA guys, thank you for coming,” Casey said as he mingled and shook hands with the COMPAC members.

“Here’s what he (Don Blankenship) is doing to you…well, you know what he’s doing to you,” Casey said. “But he has given 42 Republicans a thousand dollars. That’s $42,000. That’s 42 Republicans running against good people like Lidella, who’s standing right there behind us. Of those 42, only one guy — a guy out of Cabell County — had the decency and nerve to give it back.

“Here’s what Don is doing. We think he is on a buying thing. We think, the statements haven’t been filed yet, but we think three Republicans, Jeff Cook, Elias Gregory and Rev. Bill Marcum will get a $1,000 from him. Now they’re running against our good candidates.

“Now what Don is doing to good people like Lidella ... he sends out this questionnaire. He’s doing the same deal about ‘For the Sake of the Kids.’ Don Blankenship and For the Sake of the Kids. He’s trying to get people to think that what he thinks about is the sake of kids.

“This questionnaire states ‘This is all about improving the state for the Sake of the Kids.’ There’s a lot of questions, but here is a sampling: ‘Does a Supreme Court Justice have the right to decide whether he should sit on a case?’

“’Should the media be permitted to use their assets to attack the reputation of any of our local businesses to lower their value?’ That doesn’t have anything to do with the sake of the kids. That’s for Massey.

“Then he asks, ‘Do you support abandoning the state senate and delegate redistricting plan and making them all single member districts?’ Now, what’s that got to do with the kids?

“Well, he has enough nerve to send us a questionnaire. Well, we’re sending all those Republicans who got money from him a questionnaire we designed to find out whether they are running to be elected by the people of West Virginia or if they have already been put in his pocket. If they don’t answer the questionnaire, we know how they stand. If they do answer the questionnaire, then we’re willing to put out there that they are not with Don Blankenship. We’re not for them, but at the same time we are trying to separate anybody who is running for office — whether Republican or Democrat — from Blankenship. Because Blankenship is trying to take over the legislature. He’s got millions of dollars and he will spend what it takes.”

Some of the questions on the Democratic questionnaire include:

“In responding to criticism that he was using the plight of poor children in West Virginia to advance his political objectives, in October of 2004, Don Blankenship promised: ‘After the election... he will start a foundation also called And for the Sake of the Kids to provide needed clothing and other necessities to the most needy children of West Virginia. He said that he intends to help the foundation raise an amount ‘similar’ to $1.7 million in the coming years.’

“It’s been more than 746 days since Mr. Blankenship made that promise to poor children across West Virginia and he has yet to fulfill that promise.

“Do you think Don Blankenship should quit playing politics with the plight of needy children and do what he promised to do?

“Don Blankenship and Massey Energy want to build a coal silo within 300 feet of a school - although it’s in violation of state and federal law. Just above the school is ‘a sludge dam 400 feet high. It holds a lake full of coal waste, chemicals and toxic metals, including mercury and arsenic ... Most parents did not know that it was there until shown aerial photos.’

“Do you believe that Don Blankenship and Massey should be allowed to violate federal and state laws and build a silo so close to an elementary school?

“How many mine deaths does it take?

“Just weeks after the deaths of miners in several accidents, Don Blankenship spoke to the Berkeley County Republican Club. According to the Herald-Mail in Hagerstown, Maryland, ‘Blankenship also reportedly said that the fire, at Aracoma Coal’s Alma No. 1 Mine [a Massey subsidiary], and the January 2 explosion at International Coal Group’s Sago Mine ... were rare events and statistically insignificant.” Republican Del. Bill Hamilton (R-Upshur) said, “Shame on you Don Blankenship.’

“Do you believe Don Blankenship is correct when he says those deaths are ‘statistically insignificant?’

“According to the US Department of Labor, Mine Safety and Health Administration mines operated by Massey Energy Company and it’s subsidiaries had a total of 1,998 injuries and 24 deaths from 1995-2006.

“In February, the Associated Press reported that Don Blankenship wrote a memo “telling supervisors that ‘coal pays the bills’ . . . In the memo, dated Oct. 19, Blankenship tells the company’s deep mine superintendents that running coal is the top priority in the mines. ‘If any of you have been asked by your group presidents, your supervisors, engineers or anyone else to do anything other than run coal (i.e. build overcasts, do construction jobs, or whatever) you need to ignore them and run coal. This memo is necessary only because we seem not to understand that the coal pays the bills,’ Blankenship wrote in the memo, the Appalachian News-Express reported Friday.’

“The article said that the memo ‘is drawing fire from coal miners, who say the company is putting profits before safety.’

“Do you believe that Don Blankenship was right when he put corporate profits over the safety of his miners?

“Following the mining accidents earlier this year, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) released new federal emergency rescue rules to help miners survive. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that the mining industry ‘challenged the core provisions of the emergency safety rules.’ One of those provisions was the installation of more and better-situated oxygen supplies. The new air packs were the most expensive component of the emergency rules.

“The Charleston Gazette reported, ‘In a recent Securities and Exchange Commission filing, Third Point stated, ‘For the year ended Dec. 31, 2005, Massey’s CEO was paid $33.7 million, more than four times the average compensation of $8.1 million for the competitors’ CEOs.’

“An MSHA official estimated that it would cost $10.5 million for every United States mine to get the new packs. That is less than one-third what Blankenship received in compensation last year.

“Do you believe that the MSHA emergency rules are too stringent and cost prohibitive?”

Casey said he wants to make sure Blankenship doesn’t have any possible effects on future elections.

“We want to eliminate Don Blankenship from the whole election process and get rid of him,” Casey said. “But we also want him to know that he might have millions, and that he makes in one day what most of us will ever make forever, but…Don, WV’s is not for sale.”

With that, Casey and his associates handed out “Don, WV’s is not for sale” bumperstickers.

In his Wednesday trip, Casey traveled to Wheeling, Huntington, Lewisburg, Williamson, Bluefield and Logan. Last week Casey traveled to Martinsburg, Clarksburg, Beckley and Charleston in his efforts to eliminate Don Blankenship from the state election process.


 

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