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Lax Campaign Finance Laws Could Benefit Coal Companies, Too

First it was health insurers; now it looks like coal companies are hoping to take advantage of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling earlier this year. From Kentucky, the Lexington Herald-Leader reports:

Several major coal companies hope to use newly loosened campaign-finance laws to pool their money and defeat Democratic congressional candidates they consider “anti-coal,” including U.S. Senate nominee Jack Conway and U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler in Kentucky.

The companies hope to create a politically active nonprofit under Section 527 of the Internal Revenue Code, so they won’t have to publicly disclose their activities — such as advertising — until they file a tax return next year, long after the Nov. 2 election. [...]

“With the recent Supreme Court ruling, we are in a position to be able to take corporate positions that were not previously available in allowing our voices to be heard,” wrote Roger Nicholson, senior vice president and general counsel at International Coal Group of Scott Depot, W.Va., in an undated letter he sent to other coal companies.

Nicholson declined to comment on his letter Tuesday, after the Herald-Leader obtained it.

“A number of coal industry representatives recently have been considering developing a 527 entity with the purpose of attempting to defeat anti-coal incumbents in select races, as well as elect pro-coal candidates running for certain open seats,” Nicholson wrote. “We’re requesting your consideration as to whether your company would be willing to meet to discuss a significant commitment to such an effort.”

Apart from Kentucky Democratic senate candidate Jack Conway and Rep. Ben Chandler (D-Ky.), the letter also mentioned targeting Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.), who chairs the House Natural Resources Committee, in his race against Republican Elliott “Spike” Maynard. And when West Virginia and Republican politics are mentioned in the same breath, you can be sure that Massey Energy’s Don Blankenship is eager to get involved:

In his letter, Nicholson said his company and three others — Massey Energy, Alliance Resource Partners and Natural Resource Partners — “have already had some theoretical discussions about such an effort and would like to proceed in developing an action plan.”

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