By Maggie Thurber | Special to Ohio Watchdog
Coal miners at Century Mine in Belmont County, Ohio, want the “mistruths” about them and their support of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney to end and are calling on President Barack Obama to stop his false ads.
Miners gathered at a news event Friday to read aloud two letters they sent: one to Obama and the other to WWVA radio station talk show host David Blomquist.
In the letter to the president, they state:
“You have approved and are running television campaign ads about the Mitt Romney event that was held at our Century coal mine. These ads state that we were forced to attend this rally, and that is blatantly false.
“There are numerous false statements and absolute lies concerning our participation in this event. … Since your approval is attached to these ads, you may not wish to support these mistruths. Why would you lie about the 500 working miners who have signed this letter?
“We, the employees of Century mine, would request you immediately stop these false ads.”
How did these Ohio miners end up as subjects in the presidential campaign?
You’ve probably heard about the so-called “war on coal,” but this chapter started earlier this summer when Ohio American Energy Inc., a subsidiary of Murray Energy Corp., which owns Century Mine, announced it was closing its coal mining operations near Brilliant in Jefferson County. The company blamed regulatory actions by Obama, his appointees and his followers as the entire reason.
Murray Energy, which describes itself as “the largest privately owned coal company in America,” indicated that this was not the last of the closures.
“There will be additional layoffs, not only at Murray Energy, but also throughout the United States coal industry due to Mr. Obama’s ‘War on Coal’ and the destruction that it has caused to so many jobs and families in the Ohio Valley area and elsewhere,” Ryan Murray, vice president of operations, said in a statement.
On Aug. 14, Murray Energy hosted a Romney rally at the Century Mine facility. Later that month, several people who identified themselves as mine employees called Blomquist to complain about being forced to attend the rally. They said there were not paid for the day, either.
In an email to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Murray Energy spokesman Gary Broadbent said that “no employees were forced to attend the Romney event. All participation was, and always has been, completely voluntary.”
Then in September, building on its criticism of the president’s energy policies, the Romney campaign put out an ad featuring shots of his appearance at the mine. The use of the miners in the ad prompted the left-leaning advocacy group Progress Ohio to file a complaint with the Federal Elections Commission. The complaint states that forcing the employees to attend the rally constitutes an illegal corporate contribution.
Brian Rothenberg, executive director of Progress Ohio, indicated at the time that he would consider dropping the FEC complaint if the ad was pulled, or if it was modified to eliminate the images of the miners, the Columbus Dispatch reported.
But that wasn’t the end.
The New Republic decided to look into campaign donations by Murray Energy, its owners, officers and employees, as well as its political action committee, after two unidentified sources claimed coercion was the reason for political donations.
The Ohio Democratic Party, citing the article as a reason for a criminal investigation, asked Steven Dettelbach, the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, to scrutinize the donations for a possible violation of Title 18 of the U.S. criminal code.
In its letter to Dettelbach, the party stated:
“The Report raises serious questions about whether Murray Energy’s solicitation of hundreds of thousands of dollars for Ohio state Republicans such as Governor Kasich, and millions more for federal candidates like Mitt Romney, Josh Mandel, Jim Renacci, Bill Johnson, and more, involved extortion, money laundering, racketeering, and other violations of Title 18 of the US criminal code.
“Because this Report also raises possible violations of Ohio criminal law and 29 CFR Section 114.2(f)(iv) and (ii) of federal elections law, this letter has also been forwarded to Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty and the Federal Elections Commission.”
So the miners decided to fight back, holding the news event to ask Obama and Blomquist to stop the “absolute lies.”
The miners’ letter to Blomquist states they took “offense to the disingenuous reporting” concerning their attendance at the Romney rally:
“You see Mr. Bloomquist (sic) there is a War on Coal and we want to protect our jobs. Mining jobs are being eliminated and coal fired plants are being shut down from President Obama’s actions and policies.
“We, the undersigned support Governor Romney and reject President Obama and those like Sherrod Brown who are ‘job killers’. … Mr. Bloomquist (sic), your ‘shock jock’ tactics offend the undersigned.”
The miners asked the media to embrace coal and embrace what it does “for all of us.”