OK, so the details keep coming out after the deaths of at least 25 miners at the Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia. While we don't yet know just what caused Monday's explosion, we have learned a lot about the company that owned the mine, Massey Energy.
For that mine alone, Massey received 1300 citations for safety violations since 2005—50 in the last month. And it turns out that rather than fix, their habit was to challenge two out of three violations as a matter of course, part of their "production first approach" to the dangerous business of mining. It makes you wonder - what's it going to take for companies like this one to be treated as political pariahs?
Hurt the planet, work your employees to death. . . how come yet get to keep contributing to politicians and those politicians can keep their heads up? We don't allow donations from the Mafia.
For a start, let's look at the contributions from CEO Don Blankenship. He's given $42,300 in the last two election cycles, $4300 to Senator James Inhofe, $2000 to Pennsylvania Senate candidate Pat Toomey, and $30,400 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
All Republicans, but a deeper investigation will probably find money spread through both parties. How about any politicians who accepted that money face some serious questioning?
Our colleague Esther Kaplan noted in The Nation that for the first time in history, the Mine Safety and Health Administration is headed by a union man, Joe Main. This is a step in the right direction, but right now we should be punishing not only the violators, but the politicians who enable them.