From TALKING POINTS MEMO:
These aren’t the best of days for Don Blankenship, whose systematic downplaying of safety concerns as the CEO of Massey Energy helped lead to last week’s deadly mining disaster, and got him named the “seventh scariest person in America.” But by next January, things may be looking up for the hard-charging coal boss: He could have a very close friend in Congress.
Elliot [sic] “Spike” Maynard is running in the Republican primary to take on Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.V.), whose district encompasses the heart of West Virginia coal country. Maynard, a former State Supreme Court judge, has said that his campaign “is about protecting the coal industry, including all the jobs associated with it,” and has charged that Washington Democrats have “declared war on the coal industry.”
But Maynard also has personal ties to the industry. He spent part of the summer of 2006 hanging out with Blankenship in Monte Carlo — at the same time that Massey was appealing a $50 million jury verdict to the court on which Maynard sat. […] The following year, Maynard voted with the majority in a 3-2 decision in Massey’s favor, reversing the jury’s verdict.
Maynard never disclosed the meetings. They came out only in 2008, when they were included in a motion for a new hearing filed by lawyers for Massey’s courtroom opponents, ultimately forcing Maynard to recuse himself.
The fallout from the pictures hampered Maynard’s 2008 re-election campaign to the bench, and he finished a distant third in the Democratic primary. But he’s remained active in local politics, and how he’s back as a Republican — and talking a big game, charging that Rahall — who’s held the seat since 1976 — is too close to President Obama and Democratic leaders. Last week, Maynard invited Sarah Palin to visit a West Virginia coal mine.
And how’s that whole Princessy thing workin’ out for ya, Spike? From Alaska Dispatch:
Former Gov. Sarah Palin gave her most energy-policy-infused speech yet at Friday’s Southern Republican Leadership Conference today in New Orleans.To an adoring crowd she spoke of Obama’s “bait and switch” energy policy, which would bankrupt America, about Democrats’ “snake oil science” and “this global warming, Gore-gate stuff.”
She spent some of her speech talking about alternative energy. But most of it was spent on conventional sources of energy: gas and oil and, of course, nuclear energy.
What she failed to mention in any part of her speech was coal.
Not when calling to gut government regulations and cut the number of permits needed to bring energy to market. Not even for a call to prayer for families of the recent West Virginia Coal mining tragedy, which this week killed at least 25 miners. And she was in the South.
This is no small omission. As John McCain’s vice presidential running mate, Palin spent much of her time on the trail accusing Obama of trying to bankrupt the coal industry. Since, she’s been a strong advocate of coal. So much so that she was recently asked to visit a West Virginia coal mining operation by a congressional challenger, former state Supreme Court Justice Elliott “Spike” Maynard, who, according to AP, has a long-standing friendship with Don Blankenship, the chief executive of the tragic mine’s owner, Massey Energy Co.
It’s not known if Palin answered Maynard’s invitation, but he did say that she would be a big hit there. “West Virginians love Sarah because she has the same values we have,” Maynard said.
Much in coal country has changed since then. Coal is now in trouble, as are those who have been calling on lessening government safety regulations on the industry. Now it’s a political hot-button, so much that Palin won’t even use the word. Not even to ask for a call for silence in remembrance of those who lost their lives just a few days ago, because, as is being reported, the coal mining operation failed to follow all those pesky government regulations.
From the Huntington, WV Herald-Dispatch (January 15, 2008):
HUNTINGTON — The chief judge of West Virginia’s highest court is denying there was anything improper about his vacation to the French Riviera, where he was photographed with a top coal executive who was seeking a reversal on a multi-million dollar lawsuit.
Photos have surfaced showing Chief Justice Elliott “Spike” Maynard, who is up for re-election, in Monaco with Massey Energy Co. head Don Blankenship, in 2006. The photos were part of a motion filed by Hugh M. Caperton in an effort to get Maynard to disqualify himself from a case between Caperton and Massey.
Ten of the photos were filed sealed, and show Maynard and Blankenship with female companions traveling with them, according to the Associated Press.
Maynard was one of three justices who voted last year to reverse a 2002 jury decision in Boone County that awarded Caperton more than $76 million after finding Massey stole a coal contract from Caperton’s business, Harman Mining Corp., and ruined the company financially. The Supreme Court’s opinion was filed Nov. 20, 2007.
Blankenship told The Associated Press on Tuesday that he and Maynard decided to meet in Monaco after learning they would both be in the area at the same time.
A spokesman for Massey said it was a coincidence that Blankenship and Maynard were in Monaco at the same time, and that the two were vacationing separately, according to the AP. Time-stamped photos show the pair together on three different days.
The AP also reported that a month after the Monaco trip, Massey sued the Supreme Court over its policy on recusal requests. Attorneys for Massey had asked Supreme Court Justice Larry V. Starcher to recuse himself from the case over comments Starcher made to the media regarding Blankenship’s $3.5 million in donations to help elect Justice Brent Benjamin to the Supreme Court in 2004. Benjamin’s win unseated Warren V. McGraw, who had typically gone against coal companies in litigation that came before the court.
Both Benjamin and Maynard voted to overturn the ruling against Massey, along with Justice Robin Davis.
(Pictures from the trip available at Herald-Dispatch link above)