A Wisconsin Political Fix
not just another blog
April 15, 2010
By Roger Utnehmer
The West Virginia mine tragedy that recently claimed 25 lives is prompting calls for new safety rules and a review of our country’s dependence on coal. What the explosion absolutely should prompt is a call for campaign finance reform.
The CEO of Massey Energy, owner of the mine in which the fatalities occurred, has bribed and bought his way around West Virginia politics for years. Don Blankenship donated $3 million to a candidate for the state supreme court who then provided the one-vote margin to over-rule a $50 million judgment against Massey Energy. The contribution was so offensive the U. S. Supreme Court ruled in 2009 that it created an appearance of bias.
In 2006 Blankenship spent millions of dollars of his own money attempting to defeat legislators who supported worker safety and environmental regulations he opposed. Last year a subsidiary of Massey Energy spend $5.8 million trying to influence regulation of the coal industry.
Campaign contributions on the scale typical of Ron Blankenship are nothing but sanitized corruption. When a single candidate for a seat on the court takes $3 million from one individual and then votes to save him $50 million in damages public confidence is severely sacrificed.
Don Blankenship has engaged in a pattern of legalized bribery. Unfortunately, that same corruption is common in judicial and legislative races throughout America. The only solution is to crowd out the special interest money and replace the bribery and corruption with public financing of campaigns.
That’s my opinion. I’d like to hear yours. I’m Roger Utnehmer.
Roger Utnehmer is President and CEO of DoorCountyDailyNews.com, and a member of Common Cause in Wisconsin's State Governing Board.