By Mike Lillis
The head of Massey Energy is throwing thousands of dollars behind GOP candidates running for Congress in the heart of coal country.
Don Blankenship contributed $4,800 in the second quarter to Elliott "Spike" Maynard, a former West Virginia Supreme Court judge running against 17-term Democratic Rep. Nick Rahall (W.Va.), according to the Federal Election Commission (FEC).
David McKinley, the Republican taking on state Sen. Mike Oliverio (D) for West Virginia's first congressional district seat, received $2,400 from Blankenship over the same span, FEC filings reveal.
Sarah Palin's political action committee contributed $3,500 to both candidates.
The conservative Blankenship has been a long-time supporter of the Republican Party — a contribution history that includes a $30,400 gift to the National Republican Senatorial Committee last November.
But he has a special impetus to support GOP candidates this time around: Democrats this year are urging enactment of stronger mine-safety protections — legislation that would hike penalties for safety violations and bolster whistleblower protections for miners who report safety hazards.
The legislation, sponsored by Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), comes in direct response to an explosion at a Massey mine in West Virginia that killed 29 workers and injured another. Republicans, though, are opposing the reforms, arguing they're premature considering investigators have yet to determine the cause of the blast.
Blankenship said last week that Congress' greatest contribution to miner safety would be to do nothing.
"We need to let businesses function as businesses," Blankenship said Thursday at the National Press Club. "Corporate business is what built America, in my opinion, and we need to let it thrive by, in a sense, leaving it alone."