Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition

Originally Published in the Sunday Gazette Mail 12/09/2001
Fair Use Notice

Also see:
The Bush Administration's Coal Connections: A White House Watch project from EarthJustice

Coal Donates Thousands
To Put In Its 2 Cents

byline: Paul J Nyden

Gov. Bob Wise received more coal contributions after beating Cecil Underwood than he did during his campaign for governor.

Coal companies and their executives gave Wise $120,340, or 20 percent of all the money donated to finance his inaugural festivities. During the campaign, Wise received $115,600 in coal contributions, only 5 percent of the cash he raised.

Four years earlier, coal operators gave Underwood $253,850 for his inaugural day parties, about 30 percent of the total raised for those festivities.

The West Virginia People's Election Reform Coalition compiled these, and a host of other campaign finance figures, in computer databases of contributions during the 1996, 1998 and 2000 elections.

Julie Archer, a research analyst for PERC and the West Virginia Citizen Action Group, said, "The thing that struck me the most is that Bob Wise got more money from coal for his inauguration than he did during the campaign.

"They hedged their bets during the election race, but gave more money to Underwood. But after Election Day, they decided to jump on the new train."

Bill Case, a spokesman for Wise, said Friday, "During his campaign, the governor received contributions from many people who represented competing points of view, but who agreed his programs and policies would be the best for West Virginia's future.

"The positions he has taken, and that [the Department of Environmental Protection] has taken since his inauguration, show that we are not showing favoritism toward the industry or any other industry," he said.

In the 2000 elections, coal operators and their political action committees gave Underwood $377,642, or 17 percent of all the money he raised. Underwood was once vice president of Island Creek Coal Co.

Coal operators were Underwood's single biggest source of donations during his 1996 race against Democrat Charlotte Pritt. That year, Underwood received $264,454 in coal contributions, or 20 percent of all the money he raised for his winning gubernatorial campaign.

Coal contributions also flow freely to state legislators, particularly leaders in the Senate and House of Delegates.

Senate President Earl Ray Tomblin, D-Logan, received $30,200 in coal contributions when he ran in 1996 and $11,925 when he ran again in 2000, representing 19 percent and 11 percent, respectively, of all donations he received, according to PERC's analysis.

House Speaker Bob Kiss, D-Raleigh, received $12,300 in coal contributions in 1996, $31,575 in 1998 and $13,300 in 2000, representing 14 percent, 22 percent and 11 percent of all his contributions in those years.

In last year's legislative elections, the top 10 legislative recipients of coal cash were:

  • Delegate Sheirl Fletcher, R-Monongalia, $30,893. In February, Consolidation Coal promoted Fletcher from environmental engineer to manager of regulatory affairs.
  • Sen. Vic Sprouse, R-Kanawha, $14,500.
  • Kiss, $13,300.
  • Delegate K. Steven Kominar, D-Mingo, $11,975.
  • Tomblin, $11,925.
  • Delegate Shirley Love, D-Fayette, $7,350.
  • Delegate Barbara Warner, D-Harrison, $5,450.
  • Sen. Mike Ross, D-Randolph, $5,050.
  • Delegate Joe Martin, D-Randolph, $4,400.
  • Sen. William D. Sharpe Jr., D-Lewis, $3,950.

In 1998, the state senators running for re-election who received the most coal contributions were Senate Education Chairman Lloyd Jackson, D-Lincoln, $15,580, and Senate Finance Chairman Oshel Craigo, D-Putnam, $13,400.

Other top Senate recipients of coal donations were: Brooks McCabe, D-Kanawha, $10,801; Leonard Anderson, D-Summers, $8,400; and Frank Deem, R-Wood, $7,150.

Janet Fout, project coordinator for the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, said, "Coal is strategic in giving to many legislative races. After most people get elected, they won't do anything to upset their coal buddies."

Fout also said, "Since Bob Wise has been governor, he has been very quiet on the issue of mountaintop removal mining. The DEP has been more active than Underwood in going against coal violators, but nothing substantial has happened."

In next year's legislative session, a debate about regulating overweight coal trucks is likely to be another issue in which coal lobbyists play a vigorous role.

Case said, "Bob Wise was certainly not the favorite of many people in the coal industry in last year's campaign. But that has not stopped him from promoting coal.

"The governor received contributions from people in the coal industry. But that has not stopped him from increasing reclamation bonds on coal or taking other actions that may not be supported by everyone in the industry," he said.

After Wise defeated Underwood in November 2000, those giving $5,000 to fund Wise's inaugural party included nine of the state's dozen largest coal producers: Massey Coal Services (1), Arch Coal Inc. (2), Consol Inc. (3), Peabody Holding Co. (5), Riverton Coal Production (6), Pen Coal Corp. (7), AMVEST Minerals Co. (8), Anker Energy Corp. (9) and the Nicewonder Group from Grundy, Va. (12).

These same nine companies and their owners gave $112,000 to finance Underwood's inaugural festivities, before legislators passed a law limiting inaugural contributions to $5,000.

Last year, Bruce, Robert and Stephen Addington from Ashland, Ky., gave Wise $3,000. The Addingtons own AEI, West Virginia's fourth largest coal company, as well as companies in the metal mining and waste management industries. The Addingtons gave $4,000 to Underwood during the 2000 campaign.

Wise also received $5,000 inaugural contributions from International Industries, owned by James J. "Buck" Harless, one of Underwood's top fund-raisers; Land Use Corp., owned by Summersville coal operator and Republican contributor William Bright; and PACE Carbon Synfuels and Management, a major synfuel technology company. In 1996, Harless and Bright gave Underwood $20,000 for his inauguration.

Penn Virginia Coal Co., Pocahontas Land Corp. and Western Pocahontas Properties - major mineral holders in Central Appalachia - also gave the Wise inauguration $5,000 each.

Massey executives were major contributors to Underwood during both his recent gubernatorial campaigns, giving him $23,954 in 1996 and $14,350 in 2000.

In August 1996, Massey President Don Blankenship held a reception at his Mingo County home in Sprigg that raised $92,265 for Underwood.

By 2000, however, health-care interests were the biggest contributors of all to legislative candidates.

According to PERC's "2000 Election Cycle Report" released last month, the five largest business interests that made donations were: health care (10 percent); coal and gambling (6 percent each); real estate and construction (4 percent each).

Other business interests accounted for another 24 percent of all legislative contributions.

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

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