Coal Tattoo

Who’s afraid of cap and trade?

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Massey Energy President Don Blankenship has been busying tweeting  his opposition to the cap-and-trade bill making its way through Congress … a few samples of his wisdom:

Is Cap & Trade “environmental law”? Anti-American worker? Tax law? Scam? Whatever it is it will not help environment in any manner.

Tom Paine said–A habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it the superficial appearance of being right. Global Warming is today’s “thing”

Cap&Trade is an assault on American workers, supported by the fed gov’t.

Fair enough. We know that Blankenship doesn’t believe in global warming, and thinks the climate change bill is the worst thing since … well, since I don’t know what. But it’s also interesting to take a look at how some of Blankenship’s political associates are playing roles in this spontaneous citizen uprising against the American Clean Energy and Security Act.

thomas.JPGFirst, there’s Greg Thomas, who headed up Blankenship’s political team when the coal executive spent several million dollars of his personal money to put  Brent Benjamin on the state Supreme Court. Of course, the court was at the time gearing up to hear an appeal in a major verdict against Massey, and the U.S. Supreme Court has now ruled that Blankenship’s campaign expenditures should have led Benjamin to recuse himself from that case.

As Larry Messina previously reported on Lincoln Walks at Midnight, Thomas was among a few people who turned out for a rally in Beckley against the cap-and-trade bill.  Mannix Porterfield dutifully wrote up the rally for the Register-Herald, and the paper even had photo that featured Thomas.

Alas, no mention in the Register-Herald story of Thomas and his ties to Blankenship. Instead, Porterfield quoted Tim Boothe, a former state Trooper, describing those who attended the protest:

We’re all just concerned citizens.

As best I can tell, Thomas has attended at least one other rally against the cap-and-trade bill. It took place the morning of the House of Representatives vote on the legislation, and Thomas can be seen at the end of this YouTube video of the event:

The protest took place outside the Huntington office of Rep. Nick J. Rahall, D-W.Va., and a few hours later Rahall announced that he would join Democrat Alan Mollohan and Republican Shelley Moore Capito in voting against the bill.

romandstauffer_-_twitter2.jpgThen, there’s Roman Stauffer, another activist from Blankenship’s And For the Sake of the Kids campaign against Supreme Court Justice Warren McGraw. (Check out this photo of the campaign crew. That’s Stauffer standing at the far fight).

These days, Stauffer is running West Virginia Red, a GOP blog,  and is using it to promote the heck out of the rallies against the cap-and-trade bill, including two events planned for Saturday in Charleston and Beckley.

cornelius_rob_tweet.jpgFinally, there’s Rob Cornelius, another guy who worked for Blankenship’s And for the Sake of the Kids effort back in 2004.  Cornelius writes a regular column now for the Bray Cary media empire’s State Journal, but the paper never discloses the columnists ties to Blankenship.  The most recent column, Byrd’s Vote Can Be Key on Climate Debate, defies description. But this will give you the flavor of it:

I dream that Sen. Byrd is healthy enough to return to the Senate and be a part of this debate about a bill that will cost the poorest West Virginians their last heating and electricity dollars.

Though injured, like Darth Vader at the end of “Return Of The Jedi,” he will have the strength to intercede as Emperor Obama slowly chokes the life out of a young warrior named Manchin. The irony of Byrd pitching the emperor down a reactor shaft or some such with a deciding Senate vote against cap and trade should not be lost.

“Help us Robert C. Byrd; you’re our only hope.”

… We just have to find our cowboy, Han Solo-type to make my dream work. Not sure even who that is yet. But auditions to be the next governor and look good in a leather vest will be under way. Get your measurements in soon.

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But it’s not just that some of Blankenship’s old political team are involved in and promoting these events, and otherwise trying to work West Virginians into a tax-hating frenzy over this bill. Some of the folks who are directly organizing and speaking for the groups sponsoring the events have pretty close political ties to the Massey president, too.

There’s Fred Joseph, the retired businessman and political candidate who puts himself out there as spokesman for West Virginians Against Cap and Trade. And then there’s Mike Stuart, who heads the Conservative Foundation, another group drumming up opposition to the bill.

Joseph and Stuart were among the Republican legislative candidates who got Blankenship’s support — and his money — in the Massey president’s miserably failed effort to take over the Statehouse in 2006.

Blankenship maxed out on direct campaign contributions to Joseph, with $2,000.  And some of Blankenship’s longtime associates donated as well, including Massey officer Baxter Phillips and Ben Hatfield, now with International Coal Group. Counting PAC contributions from coal, the industry accounted for — and this is a generously low estimate based on a quick review — more than one-fifth of Joseph’s campaign money.

Stuart? Well, I only found a single $1,000 contribution from Blankenship. But like Joseph, Stuart was also among the legislative candidates that Blankenship supported through an independent expenditure blitz that did not involve direct contributions to candidate campaign committees (See here and here). And Massey’s PAC chipped in $1,000.  Stuart received thousands of dollars in contributions from other coal industry folks — including Buck Harless, Andrew Jordon, Roger Nicholson, Bob McLusky and Gary White. And Massey board member Dan Moore held a fundraiser that netted more than $12,000 from folks like Dwayne Francisco, who was president of Aracoma Coal Co. when two miners died in a fatal fire in January 2006.

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It’s hard to know if these cap-and-trade protests are having any effect. WSAZ-TV said Rockefeller issued this statement after the event outside his Charleston office earlier this week (See Gazette photo by Larry Pierce, above):

I’m glad to hear from so many West Virginians about this really important issue. I will absolutely fight for the future of coal and jobs in our state. I will not support an energy bill that threatens West Virginia’s future. Technology can make coal even cleaner, but our nation cannot survive without energy from coal. People in the rest of the country need to know how dependent on West Virginia coal they are.

Before you know it, West Virginia’s entire congressional delegation is going to be jumping out of an airplane