Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellKavanaugh hailed by conservative gathering in first public speech since confirmation Overnight Defense: Erdoğan gets earful from GOP senators | Amazon to challenge Pentagon cloud contract decision in court | Lawmakers under pressure to pass benefits fix for military families On The Money: Trump appeals to Supreme Court to keep tax returns from NY prosecutors | Pelosi says deal on new NAFTA 'imminent' | Mnuchin downplays shutdown threat | Trump hits Fed after Walmart boasts strong earnings MORE (R-Ky.) has made his defense of the coal industry a cornerstone of his campaign. But his wife, former Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao, is involved in a group that's spent millions attacking coal, according to Yahoo News.


Chao is on the board of directors of Bloomberg Philanthropies, a group that has given $50 million to the pro-environment Sierra Club for its "Beyond Coal" campaign, an effort specifically aimed at undercutting the coal industry.

The group's express goal is to close down one third of the 500 coal plants in the U.S. by 2020 and keep coal "in the ground in Appalachia."

Chao, who has been active on the campaign trail for her husband, joined the organization in 2012, after it began funding the initiative in 2011. She serves as an adviser to the group and earned $9,400 from it in 2012.

McConnell has repeatedly accused his opponent, Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (D), of supporting President Obama's "war on coal," attacks that could be undercut by these revelations.

"The decisions to make those grants by the Bloomberg philanthropies were made before she joined the board and she played no role in the decision to grant them," McConnell spokesman Don Stewart told Yahoo News. "Sen. McConnell has a longstanding, principled record of defending coal families and jobs. Decisions made by a board before Sec. Chao ever joined do not change that and as the Obama administration will tell you, he hasn’t let up an iota in his defense of Kentucky coal families and jobs."

Polls have found a close race in Kentucky, with McConnell leading in most.