Coal CEO Who Went To Jail Over Death Of 29 Miners Eyeing Senate Seat

Don Blankenship says that his conviction for disregarding federal laws on mining safety made him a political prisoner as he served out his yearlong sentence.

A memorial for 29 workers who died in the Upper Big Branch mining disaster.

A coal mining CEO whose company’s negligence contributed to the deaths of 29 mining workers is planning to run for United States Senate in West Virginia.

Don Blankenship, former head of Massey Energy, was charged and convicted with a misdemeanor count of conspiring to violate mine safety laws in 2015 after an explosion at his company, Upper Big Branch, killed 29 workers in 2010. He served a year in prison following the conviction. 

While serving out his prison sentence, Blankenship wrote a 67-page booklet alleging that his negligence wasn’t responsible for the deaths, but rather natural events led to the coal dust explosion of the mine. He also argued that he received an unfair trial, claiming that the jury pool was tainted against him since news reports of the mine disaster were widespread. Blankenship said that he was a political prisoner while serving his sentence.

He was released in May this year. He filed federal election official papers on Tuesday, and intends to run as a Republican, reports WCHS Eyewitness News.

He currently faces a primary election against two other Republicans, U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins and West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey. If successful, Blankenship will face off against Democratic incumbent Sen. Joe Manchin.

Blankenship’s candidacy doesn’t seem to be based on anything except contempt for the legal system that put him behind bars. Yet it was his own negligence that put him there, not a political vendetta from anywhere else, as he seems to claim. As a report from the Mine Safety and Health Administration pointed out, Massey Energy, under Blankenship’s watch, “promoted and enforced a workplace culture that valued production over safety.”

That line of thinking is enough to distinguish Blankenship as someone who is unfit to represent West Virginia in the U.S. Senate. Can any voter in that state honestly say with a straight face that Blankenship would put their interests above those of other negligent corporations?

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