Gavel Grab

Massey, Others Weigh Fall Political Ads

Massey Energy is one of two large West Virginia coal companies that plan to buy advertising in fall congressional elections, while taking advantage of a Supreme Court ruling that would let them do so.

Through a subsidiary, Massey owns the Upper Big Branch coal mine in West Virginia, the site of the worst mining disaster in four decades. Some observers believe Massey and International Coal Group (ICG) want to stop new rules for mine safety that Congress started drafting after the disaster, according to a Public News Service report.

“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,” said Julie Archer of West Virginia Citizen Action.

A letter by Roger Nicholson, senior vice president and general counsel at International Coal Group, to other coal companies stated, “with the recent Supreme Court ruling, we are in a position to be able to take corporate positions that were not previously available in allowing our voices to be heard.” The large coal companies have been thinking about forming a group to “pump cash into state races,” a Huffington Post article reported.

The high court decision was Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which allowed corporations and labor unions to spend unlimited amounts directly on political advertising that is not coordinated with a candidate’s committee.

Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship’s $3 million spending to elect a West Virginia judge in 2004 figured centrally in a landmark Supreme Court decision last year, Caperton v. Massey, about the risk posed by excessive special-interest spending in judicial campaigns.

If the companies formed what is called a 527 group, they could legally spend huge sums on political advertising without disclosing it until after the election, the Huffington Post said.

In Minnesota, the controversy over Target Corp.’s donations  to a group supporting the GOP candidate for governor, who opposes gay marriage (see Gavel Grab), was boiling over.

MoveOn.org has planned a petition drive and boycott against Target, according to a Politico article, and to remove itself from a public relations “nightmare” the company “is negotiating with the Human Rights Campaign to close the book on its clumsy foray into partisan politics.”

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