This week, the entire nation has been focused on the plight of coal miners who were trapped in a dangerous, inadequately-regulated coal mine where a methane explosion killed 29. The Upper Big Branch coal mine disaster was in West Virginia, but the political implications of the blast are being felt across the Appalachian region, including next door Kentucky.
There are four Kentucky Democrats competing for their political party’s nomination to the seat being vacated by retiring U.S. Senator Jim Bunning at the beginning of next year. Dan Mongiardo claims to be the leading candidate in the primary contest, but how did Mongiardo build his powerful campaign? Mongiardo’s path to political success is covered in coal dust.
Of the many hundreds of congressional campaigns in the United States this year, Dan Mongiardo’s campaign has the dark distinction of having received the most money from the coal industry: $52,649 as of the end of 2009. Many coal executives, such as Scott Boylen, Director of Planning and Acquisitions for the International Coal Group in West Virginia, have sent money to Mongiardo in spite of the fact that they don’t even live in Kentucky.
What has the coal industry gotten from Dan Mongiardo in return for that money? It’s impossible to say if there’s any specific exchange of political favors in return for donations. However, it’s worth noting that Dan Mongiardo has been extremely favorable to the coal industry during his campaign. Mongiardo’s statement on energy policy includes language such as the following: “Daniel believes developing clean Kentucky coal must be part of the solution for reducing our dependence on foreign oil. Unlike his primary opponent, Daniel strongly opposes “Cap and Trade” legislation that increases the cost of Kentucky coal.”
Furthermore, this week, when the Upper Big Branch coal mine tragedy was the top story, Dan Mongiardo was conspicuously silent. Although Kentucky is filled with coal mines just like West Virginia, Mongiardo had nothing to say about the terrible record of safety violations by coal mine operators across the state he wants to represent in the U.S. Senate. Mongiardo didn’t make a single speech or write even one press release or article about the coal mine explosion on his site – not even to express condolences for the families of the killed coal miners.
That’s not to say that Dan Mongiardo hasn’t spoken about coal recently. He has. Less than one week before the Upper Big Branch coal mine disaster, the Mongiardo for Senate campaign wrote a press release criticizing regulation of coal mines as a “declaration of war on Kentucky’s coal industry.”