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Boardman writes: "Donald Leon 'Don' Blankenship isn't just another typical rich, white, tall, 68-year-old Republican multi-millionaire ideologue serving out the last probationary year of his federal criminal sentence in Las Vegas while running for the US Senate in West Virginia, he's also an endlessly, self-righteously self-justifying mass murderer."

Donald Blankenship. (photo: IBT)
Donald Blankenship. (photo: IBT)

Multi-Millionaire Mass Murderer for Senate - Have We Hit Bottom Yet?

By William Boardman, Reader Supported News

07 April 18

And it’s truly an American Dream, after growing up poor in West Virginia

onald Leon “Don” Blankenship isn’t just another typical rich, white, tall, 68-year-old Republican multi-millionaire ideologue serving out the last probationary year of his federal criminal sentence in Las Vegas while running for the US Senate in West Virginia, he’s also an endlessly, self-righteously self-justifying mass murderer.

Don Blankenship isn’t your typical extermination-camp-type mass murderer, he’s a lifelong coal executive. Mostly his activities kill people slowly, in their natural habitat, or what used to be a natural habitat before coal mining started destroying mountains, rivers, aquifers, and other life-sustaining ecosystems.

None of this is much of an issue in the Republican primary race for the West Virginia Senate nomination. The primary is scheduled for May 8. As of April 5, Blankenship was rising in the polls, now standing second with 27% in a six-way race, nine points higher than a month ago. The leader has 29%, down four points over the past month (down 13 since February). In 2016 Donald Trump won 68% of the vote in West Virginia. In 2014 the Republican Senate candidate won 62%. Blankenship is self-funding his campaign and has reportedly already spent millions. Blankenship spokesman Greg Thomas framed the situation carefully:

While we don’t have much confidence in other people’s polls, it is not surprising that more and more West Virginians would be supporting Don Blankenship. Don’s message of being a proven job creator and a conservative leader in West Virginia who will fight against the D.C. establishment is being received well everywhere we go….

The more people know about Don, the more they like him. We are doing everything we can to make sure people hear our positive message.

Reality is a variable, especially in politics. Even in West Virginia, running as a former CEO convicted of conspiring to cut safety measures, directly leading to 29 dead miners, probably is not the best image to project, even though it’s precisely true. But that was back in 2010, back before the Trump era blossomed upon us, back when the US government actually tried to prosecute people who killed their employees, back when Rolling Stone described Blankenship with refreshing venom:

You might not know that he grew up in the coal fields of West Virginia, received an accounting degree from a local college, and, through a combination of luck, hard work and coldblooded ruthlessness, transformed himself into the embodiment of everything that's wrong with the business and politics of energy in America today — a man who pursues naked self-interest and calls it patriotism, who buys judges like cheap hookers, treats workers like dogs, blasts mountains to get at a few inches of coal and uses his money and influence to ensure that America remains enslaved to the 19th-century idea that burning coal equals progress. And for this, he earns $18 million a year — making him the highest-paid CEO in the coal industry — and flies off to vacations on the French Riviera.

In 2010, Blankenship was in his tenth year as CEO and chairman of the Massey Energy Company, the largest coal company in Central Appalachia and one of the largest in the US (sold in 2011 to Alpha Natural Resources). Under Blankenship’s leadership, Massey was notorious for valuing productivity over safety. In October 2000, a Massey subsidiary unleashed some 300 million gallons of slurry laced with mercury and arsenic, killing all aquatic life nearby and polluting hundreds of miles of downstream waterways; the Bush administration cut short the investigation and Labor Secretary Elaine Chao (Mitch McConnell’s wife) assessed a $5,600 fine on Massey (which also spent about $50 million on cleanup and local fines).

In January 2006, safety violations led to a mine fire that killed two, and Massey’s culpability led to a settlement (over the objections of the widows) in which Massey paid $4.2 million in criminal and civil penalties, then the largest settlement in the coal industry’s history (but no one was prosecuted). In February 2006, a bulldozer fire killed the operator, leading Massey to plead guilty to 10 criminal charges in a plea deal that cost Massey $2.5 million, but again prosecuted no one. In 2008, Massey paid $20 million to settle thousands of clean water violations with potential total fines of $2.4 billion, which is a pretty good incentive for the company to go on polluting. In 2009, the US cited Massey for 495 violations at the company’s Upper Big Branch coal mine and proposed fines totaling $911,802.

On April 5, 2010, Massey safety failures led directly to an explosion that killed 29 miners (out of 31), the worst US mine catastrophe since 1970, which became known as the Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster. The US assessed $10.8 million in penalties for 369 citations issued to Massey (which was cited more than 1,100 times for the same mine over the previous three years). On December 3, 2010, Blankenship resigned from Massey, three days before the mine safety report was issued. A year after the explosion, a state investigation fixed the blame on Massey leadership, up to and including Blankenship. On November 13, 2014, a federal grand jury indicted Blankenship on several felony charges of conspiring to violate federal safety standards, lying, and security fraud. In December 2015, a federal jury acquitted Blankenship of the felony charges, but convicted him of a misdemeanor charge of conspiring to violate safety standards. A federal judge ordered the maximum sentence for the conviction, one year in prison and a $250,000 fine. Blankenship appealed and lost, entered prison, appealed again and lost. His final appeal to the US Supreme Court was still pending when he was released on May 10, 2017, after serving his year. On October 10, 2017, the Supreme Court refused to hear Blankenship’s appeal. Blankenship responded to the court’s decision with a prepared statement that blamed the court system with a classic Republican trope of irrelevance and arrogance:

Our court system is so tangled up trying to decide whether illegal is illegal and whether males can use female public restrooms that they have no time to concern themselves with whether American citizens have received a fair trial. The judicial system is broken top to bottom and it’s not fixable.

Currently, still playing the victim, Blankenship is claiming his trial was tainted by prosecutorial misconduct and that “the actions of the prosecution are being reviewed by the Department of Justice Office of Professional Responsibility.” The Justice Department has neither confirmed nor denied Blankenship’s claim. Blankenship contends that the fatal mine explosion was the fault of federal prosecutors and that his prosecution was part of an Obama administration conspiracy to demonize the coal industry. Blankenship also denies climate change.

Mass murderers are not known for their repentance or humility or integrity or sense of accountability, but that won’t make him stand out in the Senate, if he gets there. He probably wouldn’t even be the first actual mass murderer in the Senate, but he might be the most blatant and successful, at least by the numbers.

When you stop, rational and detached, to think about the Senate, you realize that there’s not one senator who’s not complicit in mass murder more widespread than Blankenship perhaps even dreamed of. There is not a single US senator who’s not a war criminal, and there’s also probably not a single senator who will be charged for war crimes, much less tried for and convicted of war crimes. Punishing a US senator for culpability in any of the American war crimes of recent decades is all but unimaginable.

Of all the members of the House and Senate since 2001, only Democratic congresswoman Barbara Lee of Oakland has any right to a presumption of innocence. And she may even be actually innocent of even the most tangential participation in our government’s daily execution of war crimes and crimes against humanity. But that innocence, that pure innocence, is hard to imagine. Barbara Lee sits in Congress, and she votes for bills that may seem beneficial or benign. And how many are truly beneficial or benign? The war economy is woven into the national fabric so pervasively that almost every act directly or indirectly facilitates our killing and our preparations to kill. The fine print in a bill to feed children in America (unlikely as that has become of late) also makes it possible to kill other children in distant places where they die anonymously and alone for the sake of our national security. Somehow.

Blankenship’s rise is reportedly raising concern among Republican incumbents, who profess to be shocked – shocked – to find Republican values so vividly personified. If he gets the nomination, Blankenship will be running against Democrat Joe Manchin, who said after the mine killings that Blankenship had blood on his hands. That hardly makes him unqualified to sit in “the world’s greatest deliberative body” (self-styled) which remains all too content not to talk about its bloody hands all over Iraq and Yemen, while giving less than lip service to its hands-off approach to the deadly suffering of Americans in Puerto Rico and Flint, Michigan.

William M. Boardman has over 40 years experience in theatre, radio, TV, print journalism, and non-fiction, including 20 years in the Vermont judiciary. He has received honors from Writers Guild of America, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Vermont Life magazine, and an Emmy Award nomination from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News. your social media marketing partner


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+74 # indian weaving 2018-04-07 14:51
The answer? Yes, we hit bottom with Trump (and his entire cabinet of assassins and Mother Earth Rapists). Now we're just filling up the septic tank with more of those evil Trumps and his alter-egos, pouring into that septic tank. A critical mass of sewage will eventually upset enough good people to foment civil war. It can't happen soon enough.
+41 # Ken Halt 2018-04-07 18:35
Because of Blankenship's leadership in cost cutting measures, deliberate sabotage of safey procedures and equipment, and his greedy profit-above-sa fety management style, 29 (and probably more) miners lost their lives and will never return to their families. I think the public should appeal Blankenship's sentence, he got off with a slap on the wrist. As an accessory to murder he should have gotten a life sentence, the miners he killed received theirs.
+5 # randrjwr 2018-04-08 18:16
Accessory? He is no more an accessory to the 29 murders than Hitler was an "accessory" to the murder of 6 million Jews; only the scale is different.
+10 # randrjwr 2018-04-09 12:11
Perhaps I should clarify what I mean. The comparison to Hitler may be "over the top," but the facts are that Hitler gave the orders and he was a murderer; Blankenship gave the orders to disable the safety devices (it may have been in "coded language" but the intent was clear) and so was a murderer too--NOT merely an accessory. He should be punished accordingly. As another poster said, the miners have received their life sentences and Blankenship should get his.
+46 # Citizen Mike 2018-04-07 21:46
The fact that a fellow like this can get this far proves we are a nation of fools. And we have not come very far since the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire.
+8 # RLF 2018-04-10 06:22
This also a failure of our education system. The fact that almost every businessman in the US got rich by stealing from the taxpayers, cutting corners, producing a dangerous product, holding people's health hostage, or raping the environment shows that the university system of this country has failed to teach ethics. That's pretty basic! 'Economics Uber Alles' has brought this country to it's knees and put the gun to our head. Not sure we will survive without a revolution. These folks are just too greedy.
+24 # boredlion 2018-04-07 22:35
Mr. Boardman : I believe this is what is now known as "winning."
+37 # dotlady 2018-04-07 23:17
Thank you William Boardman for expressing the feelings of disbelief and outrage that many are feeling right now. This administration is a hideous joke that lays bare the many hideous things that have gone on before - such people making decisions of life and death under the pressure of our very system. Can't you learn to turn a blind eye? Whats'a matter with you?
+44 # futhark 2018-04-08 00:27
How does a man who has made a fortune (and killed 29 workers along the way) by ignoring the laws regulating employee safety qualify to be a Senator, in which position he will be responsible for creating new laws? The twisted logic of this nomination is mind-boggling and characteristic of the Trump Republicans, whose real mission seems to be the destruction of government of, by, and certainly for the People.
+26 # AlexG 2018-04-08 02:13
Two things about the idea that a civil war could or would save USA democracy:
[1] The bad guys who already control the political economy also control the armed forces and most urban police (predator drones, cruise missiles, theater nukes, armored personnel carriers etc.) Civilians armed mostly with handheld weapons would be no match, even if some soldiers/police /equipment joined the uprising.
[2] A big enough critical mass of angry enough "good people" is unlikely to ever gel, with mainstream media & communications still controlled by the same core of bad guys.

Maybe something less drastic/violent /improbable can and will ultimately happen if enough people suddenly have no food or potable water, though the Pig System isn't likely to let that particular trigger happen, for obvious reasons.

Even mass revolutions/reb ellions of a short 50 yrs ago have become almost impossible today in big, developed countries.

So what to do..? I dunno -- but I'm working on it....
-4 # laborequalswealth 2018-04-09 11:20
I've heard this "the US military is too powerful" argument many times.


There are an estimated 270 million guns in private hands in the USA. One of the reasons I am iffy about gun-control is that I do NOT trust the US government one stinking bit.
+1 # RLF 2018-04-10 06:26
Alex...I guess you haven't been paying attention over the last 50 years in which the big bad US of mf'n A has not had a definitive victory in a war...arguably they have lost all of their endeavors in that time swarms of small arms carrying citizens. In fact, it is the ONLY way to fight a military like the US has built. There is a reason we have terrorism...bec ause it has to go that way.
+29 # DongiC 2018-04-08 03:21
Yes, a classic confrontation between good and evil is in the making. Trump and his ilk will head the dark side ready to stick it to the poor and the sick and the elderly and the immigrant especially if non white and the black and the yellow and the red. White supremacy will be their battlecry and more money and more political power will be their goals.

The rest of America will have to struggle to stay even. Organization and turnout will have tremendous significance. But, money still talks and the forces on the right have plenty of it. Too bad they can pour so much of it into politics.
+26 # intheEPZ 2018-04-08 07:17
Thank you William Boardman for your grief, rage, and truth-telling. We are so far from the shining beacon of justice we pretend to be. Even exposing blatant conflict of interest and graft no longer has any meaning or power to effect change, and yet we have to continue to try. I am grateful for your witness, and your effort to shed light keenly and broadly.
+19 # PABLO DIABLO 2018-04-08 09:31
I didn't think the Republicans could go any lower in campaigning than talking about a candidates penis size. But, they have with this new Don.
+22 # randrjwr 2018-04-08 09:39
The bottom keeps receding; the pit we are in gets deeper by the day as Trump, Inc. finds new stuff to put in it.

This man should have been tried and convicted of the premeditated murder of the 29 miners, and then sentenced to life imprisonment at hard labor (or contracted out for the worst job the prison might be doing for some company too cheap to hire people at a living wage to do their dirty work).

Conspiring to violate safety standards a misdemeanor? That should be a felony, for starters--how can any reasonable person not know what the inevitable results of such an action will be? Mining is DANGEROUS--that 's why there are safety regulations in the first place. Any government that lets a company get away with safety violations and keep on operating (and violating) is, in fact, already in the pit and has been for many decades.

I wish I could be so optimistic as "indian weaving." I am not confident it will ever end unless the big money is taken out of politics. The entire government is bought off save for a very few moral and compassionate exceptions.
+9 # nice2bgreat 2018-04-08 15:01
"If [Don Blankenship] gets the nomination, Blankenship will be running against Democrat Joe Manchin..."

Let's not assume that the worst-as-any corporate Democrat Joe Manchin will win his Democratic-Part y West-Virginia Senatorial nomination.

In fact, (at least) as important a story in West Virginia's Senatorial race as Don Blankenship may be -- and implications of Blankenship's winning the Republican nomination, or worse, the US Senate seat from WV -- is the Democratic Party Primary candidacy of Paula Jean Swearengin.

Mr. Boardman, Joe Manchin may eventually secure the D-Party Primary nomination in West Virginia. But please look into the race itself.

While you may rightly view Don Blankenship as a grave threat to democracy. Joe Manchin has been a blight on the US Senate for far too long.

For all the right reasons, there is a strong push to unseat Joe Manchin in the Democratic Party Primaries.

Paula Jean Swearengin is best Senatorial candidate for all the right reasons.

And since Primary elections are only elections with real choices,
rather than becoming another Hillary vs. Trump scenario, where the Republican candidate is clearly a nightmare, in Primaries, worthless D's, too, must go -- the message must be sent.

I am not asking that you campaign for Paula Jean Swearengin.

However, (even if unintending) to, through journalism, portray circumstances as "givens", which marginalizes real possibilities and affects perception, could tilt result.
0 # Kootenay Coyote 2018-04-08 15:28
Makes a good case for vigilantism.
+5 # chapdrum 2018-04-08 23:25
Demented notion of the American Dream.
+6 # DongiC 2018-04-09 17:55
In the coal fields of America, the American Dream has become a nightmare. God help the miners, the republicans sure won't.

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