Coal execs planning 527 to spend in midterms

A group of coal companies has a new 527 group in the works that will target candidates it deems "anti-coal" this fall.

According to a letter obtained by the Lexington Herald-Leader, among the targets are Kentucky Senate candidate Jack Conway (D) and Rep. Ben Chandler (D-Ky.).

The group said it was spurred to action by the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling, which struck down laws prohibiting spending by corporations and unions on political campaigns.

From the Herald-Leader:

"With the recent Supreme Court ruling, we are in a position to be able to take corporate positions that were not previously available in allowing our voices to be heard," wrote Roger Nicholson, senior vice president and general counsel at International Coal Group of Scott Depot, W.Va., in an undated letter he sent to other coal companies.

Nicholson declined to comment on his letter Tuesday, after the Herald-Leader obtained it.

"A number of coal industry representatives recently have been considering developing a 527 entity with the purpose of attempting to defeat anti-coal incumbents in select races, as well as elect pro-coal candidates running for certain open seats," Nicholson wrote. "We're requesting your consideration as to whether your company would be willing to meet to discuss a significant commitment to such an effort." ...

In his letter, Nicholson said his company and three others — Massey Energy, Alliance Resource Partners and Natural Resource Partners — "have already had some theoretical discussions about such an effort and would like to proceed in developing an action plan."

Several of those companies have been involved in recent mine disasters that led to congressional scrutiny of their safety problems. International Coal Group owns the Sago mine in West Virginia where 12 miners died in 2006. Massey owns the Upper Big Branch mine, also in West Virginia, where 29 miners died in April. Two miners died in April in a Western Kentucky mine owned by an Alliance Resource subsidiary.