Coal Tattoo

Blankenship, Jim Justice pal around at the Derby

In a sidebar to a larger piece about how contributors to Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear’s political campaign got help getting Kentucky Derby tickets, the Courier-Journal in Louisville had this interesting tidbit today:

Don Blankenship, the controversial former chief executive of Massey Energy, was part of Gov. Steve Beshear’s Derby Day entourage this year.

Blankenship was aboard the CSX train that took Beshear, other top state officials and guests from Frankfort to Louisville and back on Derby Day, state records show. And his name is on a list of people invited to Beshear’s Derby Eve Gala at the Governor’s Mansion.

Courier-Journal statehouse reporter Tom Loftus continues:

Richardson said Blankenship was the Derby weekend guest of two West Virginia businessmen who were invited to Beshear’s private Derby activities — James Justice II and his son, James Justice III.

“Mr. Blankenship … was not directly invited by the administration. It’s not uncommon for guests to the Gala or train to request several invitations for friends or family,” Richardson said.

Blankenship is listed in state campaign finance records as giving $1,000 to Beshear’s re-election campaign last year. Meanwhile, the Justices, who have significant energy and agriculture interests in Kentucky and elsewhere, were among the largest contributors to Beshear’s political causes last year. The family gave $100,000 to Beshear’s inauguration fund, $50,000 to the Kentucky Democratic Party and $121,600 to the Democratic National Committee.

It’s especially interesting that Blankenship and Justice are hanging out together, given that Blankenship’s public image isn’t necessarily that positive anymore in West Virginia, while Justice — despite his mining operation’s frequent violation of safety laws — continues to generate overwhelmingly favorable press.