Climate Denier/Con-Man/Coal Baron Surging in W. Va Primary

May 8, 2018

Proving that conspiring to cause the deaths of 29 miners is not enough to keep miners from voting for you, as long as you’re tough on the “China-persons” issue.
A classic “Chickens for Colonel Sanders” situation.

Somebody explain this to me.


The GOP is so desperate to stop ex-convict Don Blankenship from winning the Republican Senate primary in West Virginia Tuesday, that President Trump even inserted himself in the race via a tweet early Monday morning.

Yet weeks of previous attack ads on the former coal baronby a super PAC connected to Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell (KY) appear to have backfired.


Politico reported Saturday evening that “four Republicans said they’d reviewed polling conducted in recent days showing Blankenship … moving narrowly ahead of his more mainstream GOP rivals.” On Monday, the Weekly Standard published two internal polls showing Blankenship with a 1-point lead and a 3-point lead.

Former Massey Energy CEO Blankenship’s popularity is surging even though he’s still on probation after serving one year in federal prison for conspiring to violate mine safety standards in the lead up to one of the worst mine disaster in decades, which killed 29 miners.

The Republican establishment opposes Blankenship fearing he is simply too toxic to win the November general election against Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), who is considered vulnerable because Trump won the state by 40 percent in 2016.

Following the disastrous Alabama Senate loss by Roy Moore, the GOP worry “they’re staring down their latest potential midterm election fiasco.”

So last Thursday, Donald Trump Jr. tweeted, “I’m gonna go out on a limb here and ask the people of West Virginia to make a wise decision and reject Blankenship!” He added, “No more fumbles like Alabama. We need to win in November.”

Then, at 3:53 Monday morning, his father joined the fight, tweeting that Blankenship “can’t win the General Election in your State … No way! Remember Alabama.”

This attack by the President led to a truly bizarre reply by Blankenship, claiming the Republican “establishment is misinforming him because they do not want me to be in the US Senate and promote the president’s agenda.”

He added: “As some have said, I am Trumpier than Trump and this morning proves it.”

Rolling Stone:

On Monday morning, President Trump warned the people of West Virginiaabout voting for former coal baron and convicted criminal Don Blankenship in Tuesday’s Republican primary: “To the great people of West Virginia we have, together, a really great chance to keep making a big difference. Problem is, Don Blankenship, currently running for Senate, can’t win the General Election in your State…No way! Remember Alabama. Vote Rep. Jenkins or A.G. Morrisey!”

Why is Trump weighing in? Because if Blankenship wins on Tuesday, Trump loses.

Blankenship is a racist who would likely be destroyed in a general election against incumbent Democrat Senator Joe Manchin. Manchin is hardly one of the bright lights of the Democratic party, but at least he has not been accused of bribing federal judges or served time for running a mining empire that put profits above human lives – literally leading to the deaths of 29 miners. Right now, Democrats need to defend their current seats and pick up just two more to gain control of the Senate in this year’s midterm elections. Republicans believe that, with a strong Republican candidate, Manchin might be vulnerable. West Virginia is, after all, Trump territory.

If Blankenship wins, however, Trump will be in the difficult position of choosing between supporting a Republican whose business record and moral compass is even more fucked-up than his own, or staying silent and abandoning a key race. Trump has already been duped once in a situation similar to this, when he backed Roy Moore, the alleged serial sexual predator, in the Alabama Senate race. Alabama, like West Virginia, is the dark-red heart of Trump country. When Moore lost, Trump was humiliated.

In West Virginia, Trump has no one to blame but himself for Blankenship’s rise. Blankenship is a junkyard dog version of our president, a political con man who uses money and violence to intimidate his enemies, and who is shameless at exploiting the very people he pretends to help. As I wrote in a 2010 profile, Blankenship is “a man who pursues naked self-interest and calls it patriotism, who buys judges like cheap hookers, treats workers like dogs, blasts mountains to get at a few inches of coal and uses his money and influence to ensure that America remains enslaved to the 19th-century idea that burning coal equals progress.”

Blankenship’s Senate campaign, such as it is, has mostly been a mix vague promises to bring back coal, solve the opioid epidemic and take on the Washington establishment.

But unlike other nut-jobs that Trump has set free upon the nation, Blankenship is a guy who actually has blood on his hands. An explosion in the Upper Big Branch mine, operated by Massey Energy, where Blankenship was CEO, killed 29 men in 2010. In the view of many West Virginians, the explosion wasn’t an accident, but the result of a deliberate strategy at Blankenship’s mines that valued profits over human lives. Blankenship was notorious for running the most dangerous mines in West Virginia, as well as for ignoring laws to rein in mountaintop removal mining that was turning Appalachia into a moonscape. As Delorice Bragg, whose husband Don “Rizzle” Bragg was killed in a fire at Massey’s Aracoma mine near Melville, West Virginia, put it to me in 2006: “It wasn’t a mine fire that killed my husband,” she said, “It was greed.”

In 2015, Blankenship went on trial for his role in the Upper Big Branch mine disaster. If there were any justice in the world, he would have been convicted of 29 counts of manslaughter and locked away for life in a small concrete cell. Instead, Blankenship ended up being convicted of a single misdemeanor charge of conspiracy to willfully violate federal mine safety and health standards and served a year in Taft Correctional Institution, a private prison near Bakersfield, California – a posh place that’s known as a playground for white collar criminals. (“The commissary was exceptional,” one recent inmate wrote.) In fact, the disaster was downright profitable for Blankenship. In his last year as CEO, Massey Energy paid him $17.8 million. By one estimate, he received an additional $86.2 million when the company was sold. Around that time, he bought a $2.4 million villa in Las Vegas, complete with palm trees and an infinity pool. (He also owns a home in West Virginia.)

After his conviction, Blankenship argued that the Federal Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) – not himself or his former company – bore responsibility for the deaths of his miners, and he has said that the government’s “cover-up” of what happened at Upper Big Branch is “far worse than Benghazi.”

He also shamelessly promoted himself as a “political prisoner,” a sort of Nelson Mandela of the war on coal. “It’s probably the most helpful thing in the campaign – it’s amazing. When the truth comes out about what they did,” he said, referring to the Obama administration, “it’ll make the Russian probe look benign.”

Still, even in a place like West Virginia, it’s not easy for a rich ex-con to get elected to the U.S. Senate. So Blankenship has been deft about deflecting attention by launching a bizarre attack on Republican majority leader Mitch McConnell. “Swamp captain Mitch McConnell has created millions of jobs for China people,” Blankenship said in a campaign ad last week. “While doing so, Mitch has gotten rich. In fact, his China family has given him tens of millions of dollars.”

The “China people” remarks are apparently a reference to McConnell’s wife Elaine Chao, the Secretary of Transportation, who is the daughter of James S.C. Chao, the founder of the Foremost Group, a shipping and trading company. Blankenship also tagged McConnell as “Cocaine Mitch,” an apparent reference to a seizure of drugs on one of his wife’s family’s ships. “The war to drain the swamp and create jobs for West Virginia people has begun,” Blankenship says in the ad. “I will beat Joe Manchin III and ditch Cocaine Mitch for the sake of the kids.”


3 Responses to “Climate Denier/Con-Man/Coal Baron Surging in W. Va Primary”

  1. dumboldguy Says:

    Somebody explain this to me”, you ask? That’s an impossible task—-“explanation” implies that there is a series of rational facts that can be assembled into a coherent argument for the validity of this phenomenon.

    Maybe it’s a religiousl/superstition thing? “Whom the gods would destroy they first make mad” etc. That could explain what appears to be happening to the voters in West Virginia.

    (PS It’s hard to believe that a creature like Don Blankenship is actually walking on the surface of this Earth, never mind running for elected office).

  2. indy222 Says:

    I’ll offer one – pure irrational Daffy Duck rage on the part of the voters, after being freaked-over for years and decades, and the success of the ad-men behind the republicans to convince them it’s the fault of all people not like them in the most crude and meaningless ways (color, gender, country of origin, race…) . This is what I worry about if we somehow get another “black person” President, or heaven forbid, a “female black person” president. Nevermind they may be vastly qualified – the Daffy Duck over-the-edge rage of Republican “base” could tip us into social unrest that’ll make the ’60’s look like lobotomized calm. Those pro-Blankenship’ers will not crawl back under the rock they hid under during the Obama years, I fear.

  3. Abel Adamski Says:

    He came third

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