Coal operators staying out of campaign

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Coal operators with a reputation of using
their money to influence elections have been keeping their wallets
closed this year in Kentucky, even though mining has been an
overriding issue in the governor's race.
Pro-mining Republican David Williams has received about $24,000
from employees of the state's largest coal companies, according to
reports filed Wednesday with the Kentucky Registry of Election
Finance. Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear, a coal advocate who is
seeking re-election to a second term, picked up about $14,000.
That's pocket change in Kentucky, where Beshear alone has
collected nearly $10 million in political contributions and where
Williams and a couple of independent political groups have chipped
in about $3.4 million more.
Phil Osborne, executive director of the mining advocacy group
Faces of Coal, said Kentucky miners and coal operators haven't been
as financially engaged this year because they consider both of the
major candidates friendly to their industry, even though
GOP-sponsored TV and radio ads have attacked Beshear as an
anti-coal Democrat.
Osborne said most coalfield voters see Beshear as "a staunch
advocate for the industry" because he has stood against federal
regulations that he says are costing jobs in the coal industry,
which now employs about 18,000 Kentuckians.
"I saw a copy of a letter the governor sent to President Obama
regarding the EPA's regulatory overreach," Osborne said. "He
stood there in front of the joint session of the state legislature
and told the EPA to get off our backs. So I think what has appeared
on TV and radio stations is diametrically opposed to what the
governor's record is, and people know that."
Williams also has pledged his allegiance to the coal industry,
saying if he's elected, he'll fight to get the federal restrictions
on coal mining lifted. Both Williams and Beshear have also said
they're supporters of the controversial method of mining known as
mountaintop removal, which entails bulldozing high Appalachian
ridges and peaks to unearth coal.
Only a longshot independent candidate, Lexington attorney
Gatewood Galbraith who has raised little money, opposes mountaintop
removal.
Coal companies don't need to get involved in the governor's
race, said David Adams, executive director of the conservative
political group Kentucky Knows Best.
"They win either way," Adams said.
Adams said coal operators could have made contributions to
outside groups or political parties that wouldn't show up on the
candidate's donor reports, but he doubts significant amounts were
given.
The latest campaign finance reports show that Beshear has
received $14,500 in individual contributions from people who list
their occupations as coal operators, compared to Williams who got
$6,500.
From people listed as coal miners, Beshear received $8,000 and
Williams $6,750.
Employees of Alliance Coal, one of Kentucky's largest mining
companies with nearly 1,000 workers in the state, accounted for
$18,000 of the money that went to Williams and $5,000 of what
Beshear took in.
Among mining industry donors, employees of Arch Coal gave
Beshear $1,200. Employees of International Coal Group gave Williams
$1,300 and Beshear $700. Employees of James River Coal gave
Williams $750. Employees of TECO Coal gave Williams $1,000. And
employees of Cheyenne Elkhorn Coal gave Williams $1,000.
"I would suggest that our member companies come in four
categories," said Kentucky Coal Association President Bill
Bissett. "Those who support the incumbent. Those who support the
challenger. Those who support both. And those who do not wish to be
involved in the process."
The mining industry was far more involved in the 2007
gubernatorial race, when Beshear defeated incumbent Republican Gov.
Ernie Fletcher. Individual contributions then reached about
$170,000, which was nearly evenly split between the two candidates,
according to the campaign watchdog group Money In Politics.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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