This article originally provided by The Charleston Gazette

Read the report:  Analysis of Coal Industry Contributions to State Political Campaigns 1996-2004

November 27, 2005

Coal has given millions to candidates, report says

By Paul J. Nyden
Staff writer

Since 1996, coal operators and industry leaders have given more than $4 million to candidates running for governor, the Supreme Court and legislative positions in the Mountain State.

Julie Archer, a research analyst for the West Virginia People Election Reform Coalition, is releasing a report she recently finished, analyzing coal contributions during five election cycles in 1996, 1998, 2000, 2002 and 2004.

PERC-WV is jointly supported and funded by the West Virginia Citizen Action Group in Charleston, the Mountain State Education and Research Foundation in Charleston and the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition in Huntington.

During the election cycles studied, coal company interests gave more than $2 million to gubernatorial campaigns, $1.5 million to state legislative races and $529,332 to Supreme Court candidates, the report states.

Gov. Joe Manchin received $571,214 of the $673,251 in coal contributions made to last year's gubernatorial candidates, or nearly 85 percent of the total.

That was the most any political candidate received from coal donations in any election since 1996, accounting for 12 percent of all money that Manchin raised during his successful 2004 campaign.

Coal companies also gave $57,087 to Mingo County banker Dan Moore, who lost the 2004 Republican primary for governor; $31,850 to Morgantown businessman Monty Warner, who won the Republican nomination; and $13,100 to other gubernatorial candidates.

Coal operators also gave $354,321 to Supreme Court candidates in 2004, including $248,200 to Republican Brent Benjamin of Charleston, who won the election. They also gave $97,621 to Greenbrier County Circuit Judge Jim Rowe, who lost the Democratic primary to incumbent Supreme Court Justice Warren McGraw, and $8,500 to McGraw.

Other 2004 races

Last year's legislative races attracted $474,423 in coal company donations: $223,849 to Senate candidates and $250,574 to House of Delegates candidates.

Of this total, 56 percent of all donations went to 109 incumbents. Only 13 of them failed to win re-election.

The largest coal donor in 2004 was RAG Coal Holdings and two of its subsidiaries - Riverton Coal and Kingston Resources. Together, they gave $92,877 to West Virginia candidates.

West Virginians for Coal, the political action committee of the West Virginia Coal Association, made 143 donations to 81 candidates, totaling $46,450.

Other frequent coal industry contributors included: Arch Coal, based in St. Louis, Mo.; William R. Bright, owner of Bright Enterprises in Summersville; Bruce, Larry and Robert Addington, former owners of Horizon Natural Resources; Consol Energy; and James "Buck" Harless, a Mingo County coal operator and timber owner.

When Gov. Bob Wise was raising money for his 2004 re-election campaign, before he withdrew from the race, Riverton executives gave him $20,500 at a March 2002 fundraiser in Charleston and Permoc Inc. executives gave $29,000 at an October 2003 fundraiser in Barboursville. (Based in Ohio, Permco makes hydraulic pumps and motors used in coal mines.)

Previous races

Cecil Underwood, who won the race for governor in 1996 and lost to Bob Wise in 2000, received $895,946 from coal interests for his two gubernatorial campaigns and his 1997 inaugural ceremonies in Charleston.

Coal industry leaders routinely make donations to help pay expenses at gubernatorial inaugural balls, including: $253,464 to Underwood in 1997, $120,340 to Wise in 2001 and $174,500 to Manchin in 2005.

House of Delegates Speaker Bob Kiss, D-Raleigh, was the top recipient of coal contributions to legislators. Between 1996 and 2004, Kiss received $76,425 during his five election campaigns.

Delegate Steve Kominar, D-Mingo, received $64,125 during those same years. Kominar, who works for Sartin Trucking, was a lead sponsor of 2002 legislation that raised the legal weight limit for coal trucks traveling state roads.

Top Senate recipients of coal donations included Senate President Earl Ray Tomblin, D-Logan, who received $62,425, and Sen. Vic Sprouse, R-Kanawha, who received $60,854 since he first ran for the Senate in 1996.

Traditionally, the majority of coal donations went to Democratic candidates in legislative races.

In 2004, PERC discovered, Republican candidates in both the House and the Senate received more coal donations than their Democratic opponents.

Before Republican Brent Benjamin defeated incumbent Warren McGraw in last year's Supreme Court race, Justice Elliott "Spike" Maynard, raised more coal money than any other Supreme Court candidate. More than 25 percent of the $408,843 Maynard raised in 1996 came from coal interests, PERC found.

Individual and group contributions

The new PERC election report notes that its statistics do not include any contributions made through "527" groups or any political expenditures made directly by individuals or organizations.

Donald L. Blankenship, chief executive officer of Massey Energy, spent nearly $3.1 million of his personal money to help Benjamin defeat McGraw and gave nearly $2.5 million to a 527 group called "And For The Sake Of The Kids."

Blankenship also reported that he spent another $515,708 to help Benjamin independently and that he donated $100,000 to Citizens for Quality Health Care, another 527 political organization that opposed McGraw.

"And For The Sake Of The Kids" also received $745,000 from a Wheeling-based physicians' group called Doctors for Justice and $223,000 from the West Virginia Coal Association. The 527 group raised $3.6 million in efforts to defeat McGraw.

Most money spent by those 527 organizations paid for television, radio and newspaper ads in the campaign against McGraw.

When Justices Joseph Albright and Robin Jean Davis ran successfully for Supreme Court in 2000, they raised $358,885 and $692,042, respectively, the PERC report states. Coal contributions to both of their campaigns amounted to less than 1 percent of all the money they raised.

To contact staff writer Paul J. Nyden, use e-mail or call 348-5164.

Voter-Owned Elections

Citizens for Clean Elections P.O. Box 6753 Huntington, WV 25773-6753 304-522-0246