Letter Wants Attorney General to Begin Criminal Probe of Don Blankenship, WV Mine Disaster

Press Release: WatchDog Groups Ask Attorney General Holder To Appoint An Independent Prosecutor To Investigate The Conduct, Policies And Actions Of Massey Energy CEO And U.S. Chamber of Commerce Director Don Blankenship

Blankenship Engaged In Pattern Of Criminal Racketeering From Obstruction Of Justice To Homicide

Washington, DC:  Today,, a coalition of NGOs dedicated to corporate and government accountability, sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder requesting the immediate appointment of an independent prosecutor to conduct a criminal investigation of Massey Energy CEO and U.S. Chamber of Commerce Director Don Blankenship for engaging in a pattern of criminal racketeering.  Specifically, the letter outlines Blankenship’s long, multi-year history of conduct designed to circumvent regulations that protect the safety of mine workers.  Last week, 29 miners died when the Upper Big Branch mine exploded because of improper ventilation of methane gas.  

“While Blankenship has been at the helm of Massey Energy, he has faced numerous fatal disasters, thousands of safety violations, millions in fines, repeated shareholder suits, multiple investigations, and many criminal and civil penalties, yet he continues to violate the law,” said, spokesman and attorney Kevin Zeese.  “Our letter to Attorney General Eric Holder summarizes a shamefully long list of Blankenship wrongdoing, including deaths from intentional safety violations, mockery of safety officials, threats against those who reported violations, refusal to pay fines or fix safety violations, payoffs to politicians to stop investigations, buying of judges, an assault on an ABC reporter, vacations with a judge hearing a Massey lawsuit, and one of the biggest coal slurry spills ever.  Clearly, the only way that Blankenship will be stopped is through the criminal justice system.  He has thumbed his nose at regulators, paid off politicians and judges, and views himself as entitled and above the law.  The time has come to stop this man’s crime spree, which has left a wide path of death and destruction, broken families, and fatherless children.  There can be no more business as usual with ineffective agency investigations, fines that are written off or ignored, and legislation that can be circumvented.  The reason we have law enforcement is to protect us from harm, and we have now officially called on the Attorney General to stop Don Blankenship before he kills again.”  

The letter also details Mr. Blankenship’s close connection with Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell and his wife Elaine Chao, who shut down investigations of Massey during the Bush Administration after Blankenship gave the National Republican Senatorial Committee $100,000 and McConnell over $13,000. has asked Mr. Holder to investigate those payments to determine if the failure to investigate contributed to later deaths at Massey mines.  

Finally, the letter asks that the investigation include Blankenship’s relationship with the United States Chamber of Commerce to determine if Chamber funds, lobbyists or lawyers were used to pay off judges or others to shut down investigations, win lawsuits, or influence agency action involving Massey.  

A copy of the letter is posted at DOJ_Blankenship_Complaint.pdf


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