Watchdog Group Offers $50,000 Reward for Information Leading to Conviction of Massey Energy Officials for Bribery
WASHINGTON, May 3 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — StopTheChamber.com, a national watchdog group dedicated to government and corporate accountability, today offered a $50,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of any Massey Energy executive for paying a bribe to any federal official for any purpose, including to cover up or ignore safety violations, pass legislation, or install or appoint pro-Massey people in key oversight positions.
On April 14, 2010, StopTheChamber.com attorney Kevin Zeese wrote a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder requesting a criminal investigation of Massey Energy and its CEO Don Blankenship for engaging in a pattern of criminal activity. “Our letter and the new FBI investigation of Massey Energy provide a strong basis to believe that Massey, its CEO Don Blankenship and/or other executive Massey staff spent vast amounts of money to ensure that federal officials overlooked its pattern of criminal activity,” said Mr. Zeese.
Among the letter’s long list of criminal allegations was a cover-up of the massive, October 2000 coal slurry spill in Martin County, Kentucky, called one of the “nation’s largest man-made environmental disasters east of the Mississippi.” After the spill, then-U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao, who oversaw the Mining Safety and Health Administration, “put on the brakes” regarding an agency investigation into the spill by placing a staffer to her husband, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), in charge. In September 2002, after a Labor Department judge levied a nominal $5,600 fine, Massey’s PAC gave $100,000 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which McConnell had previously chaired. Overall, McConnell has been one of the top recipients of Massey-related contributions, collecting at least $13,550 from Massey-connected contributors.
Blankenship’s contributions to Republicans helped him place allies at the highest levels of the federal mine safety system during the Bush administration. Massey COO Stanley Suboleski was appointed to the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission in 2003 and was nominated in December 2007 to run the Energy Department’s Office of Fossil Energy. Suboleski is now again on the Massey board. After being rejected twice by the Senate, President Bush put one-time Massey executive Dick Stickler in charge of the MSHA by a recess appointment in October 2006. In the 1990s, Stickler oversaw Massey subsidiary Performance Coal, the operator of the deadly Upper Big Branch Mine, after managing Beth Energy mines, which “incurred injury rates double the national average.” Bush named Stickler acting secretary when the recess appointment expired in January 2008.
The letter specifically names Massey CEO Don Blankenship, stating that he “bought a seat on the West Virginia Supreme Court,” took vacations with a West Virginia Supreme Court justice, and paid the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to use its lobbyists to influence official action. Last Friday, National Public Radio reported that the FBI is investigating allegations that Massey Energy bribed officials of the MSHA.
“Although we did not use the word ‘bribe’ in our original letter to the Attorney General,” Zeese continued, “We now believe that it is appropriate for law enforcement to look at whether the payments made by Massey to Senator Mitch McConnell, his wife, the MSHA, the NRSC and the Chamber constituted bribes under Section 201 of the federal bribery statute. That statute specifically prohibits the direct or indirect giving of anything of value to any federal official to do anything that benefits the giver.”
“Clearly, Massey benefitted from payments to Senator McConnell, the Chamber and the National Republican Senatorial Committee. We now call on the Attorney General to investigate these payments as well as other alleged payments from the perspective of Section 201. And, to help with this investigation, we are offering a fifty thousand dollar reward for hard information that will stand up in court and lead to the arrest and conviction of any Massey executive staff who paid a bribe.”
The identity of those who contact the StopTheChamber.com tip line will be kept strictly confidential. The campaign has set up a two ways to accept tips — 1-888-4U-CHAMBR (1-888-482-4627) or firstname.lastname@example.org.