November 14, 2014

Will Senator Jim Inhofe Return Don Blankenship’s Campaign Donation?

Senator Jim InhofeOne of Senator Jim Inhofe’s (R-OK) most fervent supporters may soon end up behind bars. Yesterday, former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship was indicted by a federal grand jury for a range of alleged criminal acts relating to the disaster at Upper Big Branch mine, a 2010 explosion that killed 29 of Blankenship’s employees. Blankenship is charged with thwarting mine safety enforcement by misleading mine safety inspectors, conspiring to violate mine safety laws, and he is also accused of making false statements to the Securities and Exchange Commission about his company’s safety practices.

Blankenship is a big fan of Senator Inhofe. So much so that the former coal executive posted a fundraising letter sent by Inhofe on his personal website, and tweeted “Learn how mild my views are vs. Sen Inhofe-Oklahoma. Unfortunate coal area Senators not pro-coal like Inhofe.”

And to underscore that support, Blankenship, according to disclosures, gave only to one federal politician this cycle: a $2,600 check to Senator Inhofe.

Before his fall from grace, Blankenship was very politically active. He served on the board of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, led anti-EPA rallies, and donated to politicians so frequently that the U.S. Supreme Court intervened in a West Virginia state supreme court election that Blankenship had manipulated through campaign cash.

In July, Republic Report reported that as the UBB disaster occurred, Blankenship’s Massey Energy gave $100,000 to the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a libertarian think tank that went on to defend Massey’s company and to push back against calls for better mine safety regulation. Also that month, we interviewed Blankenship, who told us that he would soon be releasing a movie about global warming and government regulation.

Indeed, that movie is now online, and apparently being played on at least one local Fox affiliate. The movie features interviews with people associated with the global warming-denying Heartland Institute, including Patrick Moore, Roy Spencer, Cal Beisner, Joe Bastardi.

It seems less likely, in light of the indictment, that these individuals will continue to appear in Blankenship videos. But who knows. Republic Report sent an e-mail to Senator Inhofe’s office asking if the senator will hold on to Blankenship’s donation or return the money. They have not responded.