Our prayers and condolences go out to the 25 workers who died in the Massey mine explosion; four others are missing, as CNN tells us here (still seem to be competent when it comes to hard news, as opposed to right-wing editorials, which is encouraging).
And there are some who ask “isn’t it bad form to go after the owner of Massey while the human tragedy continues to unfold here”?
This Daily Kos post, which in no way blames Virginia attorney general Ken Cuccinelli for the disaster, still cites the cozy political connection between the Virginia Repug party and Massey owner Don Blankenship, with Massey having donated $61,000 to Virginia Republicans in 2009 (“and $0 to the Dems”), not to mention $441,463 to Virginia Republicans since 1997 (just $8,250 to Democrats), including $40,000 to Bob McDonnell for Governor and $10,000 to Ken Cuccinelli for Attorney General (all perfectly legal I’ll admit, but it still raises questions…Massey is based in Richmond, VA by the way).
This tells us more on Massey’s sorry history, having been cited for over 3,000 safety violations since 1995 and $2.2 million in fines (as noted here, In 2002, President George W. Bush “named former Massey Energy official Stanley Suboleski to the MSHA review commission that decides all legal matters under the Federal Mine Act,” and cut 170 positions from MSHA. Bush’s MSHA chief, Dick Stickler, was a former manager of Beth Energy mines, which “incurred injury rates double the national average”).
(Oh, and by the way, even though Massey’s Upper Big Branch Mine where the accident occurred is non-union, the United Mine Workers of America has sent “expert personnel to the area” to assist.)
This tells you of the Repug political candidates who have benefited the most from the good graces of Massey’s Don Blankenship, including PA’s own Pat Toomey (and as Devilstower points out, this is “the same Don Blankenship who invented a scandal and funded it to the tune of $3 million to run one state supreme court judge out of office for the crime of siding with workers. The same Blankenship who was photographed cavorting along the French Riveria with another justice while his company had a $77 million case before the court. The same Don Blankenship who regularly condemns the whole idea of environmental protection, saying that global warming does not exist and that asking people to conserve is tantamount to communism. The same Blankenship and the same Massey that last year was convicted of massive and systematic age discrimination.”…also, “the same Blankenship and the same Massey who lost miners a recently as 2006 due to lack of safety equipment. At the end of that case, the widows of the dead men refused to accept the settlement, stating that it was clear that the company executives had placed profit ahead of safety.”)
Finally, this tells us that Blankenship was sued by Hugh Caperton, a rival coal operator driven out of business by Blankenship. Caperton then successfully sued Blankenship for $76 million, but instead of paying up, Blankenship manufactured the scandal noted above by Devilstower involving one judge, Warren McGraw.
(McGraw was accused of casting a vote in favor of allowing a child molester to work in a school district – read the 9/23/04 story from here and you tell me how much of a threat you believe Tony Dean Arbaugh, Jr. really was, a man who was rebuilding his life before it was destroyed by Blankenship…the link also contains a story of Judge McGraw receiving a “national grandparents rights” plaque).
McGraw lost and was replaced by Blankenship flunky Brent Benjamin, whose court seat had literally been bought by Blankenship. And, predictably, Benjamin later provided the deciding vote in favor of Massey and against Caperton, a move so outrageous that even the Supreme Court of Hangin’ Judge JR said that Benjamin should have recused himself, motioned by Caperton three times during the trial.
So when it comes to mining fatalities, ruined judicial careers and destroyed lives, all roads, so to speak, lead back to Don Blankenship, an individual as dark as the deepest depths of his safety-compromised mine.