Don Blankenship is the chairman and CEO of Massey Energy, Appalachia's biggest coal company, and owner of the mine where 29 miners were killed Monday. Massey made $2.7 billion last year. Blankenship is a very powerful man in West Virginia, and a political powerbroker right out of a Thomas Nast cartoon who has thrown his weight around in local elections and supported right-wing tea party Republican causes. His cavalier attitude about mine safety precautions has forced him to answer tough questions since Monday's tragic explosion.
According to the Washington Post, "The Upper Big Branch coal mine, the site of Monday's explosion, has been cited 1,342 times for safety violations since the beginning of 2005. (Days since the beginning of 2005: 1,922.)"
The Upper Branch mine was cited for 53 safety violations in March alone, on top of 458 in 2009. The Mine Safety and Health Administration, the federal agency charged with oversight for mining operations, sought $900,000 in penalties against the facility last year.
Here are some great Don Blankenship moments, courtesy of "Crooks and Liars," a blog that covers the worst corporate criminals.
- It's fine for elementary school-age children to inhale coal dust while playing at school because Massey Coal "already pays millions of dollars in taxes each year".
- Blankenship truly believes that government regulation means "we all better learn to speak Chinese."
- He has absolutely no problem paying $3 million to elect state Supreme Court justice Brent Benjamin just ahead of a scheduled hearing of his appeal to overturn a large damage award for driving competitor Harman Mining Corporation into bankruptcy.
- Blankenship will spend millions to keep the Massey Energy's workforce non-union, is perfectly happy to discriminate against union workers even if it means being sued and losing, and might hate unions as much as he hates 'greeniacs'.
According to "Crooks and Liars," Blankenship spent over a million dollars along with other US Chamber buddies like Verizon to sponsor last year's Labor Day Tea Party, also known as the 'Friends of America Rally.' Guest speakers included right wingers Sean Hannity and Ted Nugent, and the event focused on "President Obama, Democrats, and any one who doesn't salute God, coal, and apple pie."
Here's Massey's pitch.