The embattled Massey Energy Co. chief executive, Don Blankenship, has spread his political largesse from politicians and judges to the anti-tax Tea Party movement.
Blankenship, also chairman of the Richmond-based coal company that had an explosion at a West Virginia mine that killed 29 employees early this month, the worst since 1970, was a major sponsor of the Friends of America rally in Holden, W.Va., on Sept. 5. The event, which drew 70,000, was also billed the Labor Day Tea Party.
Massey Energy was one of dozens of central Appalachian companies that paid more than $1 million for the event, which was designed, in part, to counter a similar Labor Day confab that the United Mine Workers of America had held nearby annually for the past for 70 years.
In YouTube broadcast to drum up support for his event, Blankenship told potential event participants that “environmental extremists and corporate America are trying to destroy your jobs.” Some members of the West Virginia National Guard and West Virginia State Police were on hand during the Sept. 5 event. Off-duty state troopers were paid overtime by Massey Energy.
Massey has a deep tradition of political contributions. Virginians who have enjoyed the company's contributions include former Governors George Allen and Jim Gilmore, former Congressman Tom Bliley and current Congressman Eric Cantor. All are Republicans.