Ken Cuccinelli, the Tea Party/GOP candidate for governor in Virginia, is struggling to save his campaign from a pair of slow-moving -- but unrelenting -- scandals that cast doubt upon his character and integrity.
To be clear, neither of these scandals are Whitewater-esque: There really is a "there" there. Cuccinelli really did accept thousands of dollars in gifts from the CEO of Star Scientific. He bought and sold stock in the company, and failed to report the transactions as required by law. He did all of this while holding office as Virginia's Attorney General. And he did all of this at a time he was legally obligated to defend against a lawsuit Star Scientific filed against the Commonwealth of Virginia.
(As an aside, imagine learning your divorce lawyer concealed that she had accepted thousands of dollars from your ex-spouse while the case was pending. That's very similar to what we have here.)
While Cuccinelli was literally in sleeping in Star Scientific's bed, he was also using the power of his office to benefit a Pennsylvania coal and gas company, Consol Energy. Beginning in 2010, Cuccinelli (and other lawyers in his office) took steps to help Consol avoid paying coal-bed methane royalties owed to Virginia landowners. Here again, the money trail is damning. Over the first seven years of Cuccinelli's political career, Consol contributed a total of $3,500 to Cuccinelli's various campaigns. In contrast, in the three years Cuccinelli has been using his AG office to benefit Consol, they've given his campaigns more than $140,000.
One might think that an embattled politician struggling to overcome the headwinds of scandal would be cautious before accepting fat envelopes of cash from extreme and unsavory donors.
According to Cuccinelli's most recent campaign finance filing, his most generous individual contributor (and largest donor after the Republican Governors Association), is Murray Energy Corporation. Less than a month ago, on Aug. 27, Cuccinelli took $30,000.
Robert "Bob" Murray owns Murray Energy Corporation. He has a history.
Most recently, he was the keynote speaker at the Bluefield Coal Show. He told the audience, "Many prominent Americans are now discussing the need to impeach President Obama." He unveiled a sign that read "Save America Impeach Obama" and asked people in the room if they wanted to be part of the effort.
In September 2012, Mitt Romney gave a campaign speech in Ohio. Scores of coal miners, easily identified by their overalls, boots and safety gear, formed the backdrop as Romney derided "Obama's War on Coal". Romney nodded toward Murray and added, "I tell ya, you've got a great boss. He runs a great operation here."
The next day the world learned that the miners standing behind Romney went without pay that day because Murray closed his mine -- and "communicated to [the miners] that the attendance at the Romney event was mandatory."
Just weeks later Barack Obama was reelected in a landslide.
Bob Murray responded with a prayer:
The American people have made their choice. They have decided that America must change its course, away from the principals of our Founders. And, away from the idea of individual freedom and individual responsibility. Away from capitalism, economic responsibility, and personal acceptance.
We are a Country in favor of redistribution, national weakness and reduced standard of living and lower and lower levels of personal freedom.
My regret, Lord, is that our young people, including those in my own family, never will know what America was like or might have been. They will pay the price in their reduced standard of living and, most especially, reduced freedom.
The takers outvoted the producers. In response to this, I have turned to my Bible and in II Peter, Chapter 1, verses 4-9 it says, 'To faith we are to add goodness; to goodness, knowledge; to knowledge, self control; to self control, perseverance; to perseverance, godliness; to godliness, kindness; to brotherly kindness, love.'
Lord, please forgive me and anyone with me in Murray Energy Corp. for the decisions that we are now forced to make to preserve the very existence of any of the enterprises that you have helped us build. We ask for your guidance in this drastic time with the drastic decisions that will be made to have any hope of our survival as an American business enterprise.
With that, Murray announced he was firing more than 150 of his miners.
Firing so many employees may well have been the fulfillment of a promise.
"... a review of letters and memos to Murray employees, suggest that coercion may also explain Murray staffers' financial support [...] Murray, it turns out, has for years pressured salaried employees to give to the Murray Energy political action committee (PAC) and to Republican candidates chosen by the company. Internal documents show that company officials track who is and is not giving. The sources say that those who do not give are at risk of being demoted or missing out on bonuses, claims Murray denies.
The Murray sources, who requested anonymity for fear of retribution, came forward separately. But they painted similar pictures of the fund-raising operation. 'There's a lot of coercion,' says one of them. 'I just wanted to work, but you feel this constant pressure that, if you don't contribute, your job's at stake. You're compelled to do this whether you want to or not." Says the second: 'They will give you a call if you're not giving... It's expected you give Mr. Murray what he asks for.'
A September 2010 letter [Exhibit B, the last page of the PDF file] lamenting insufficient contributions to the company PAC is more pointed. 'The response to this letter of appeal has been poor,' Murray writes. 'We have only a little over a month left to go in this election fight. If we do not win it, the coal industry will be eliminated and so will your job, if you want to remain in this industry."
So that's Cuccinelli's largest individual donor from the last cycle. $30,000 from an extremist billionaire that is funding an Obama impeachment effort, that allegedly extorts money from his low-wage employees, and fires his workforce wholesale in fits of spite when electoral results disappoint him.
In light of the Consol and Star Scientific scandals, Murray's status as the largest individual donor to Cuccinelli's campaign should raise questions in Virginia: What does Bob Murray expect in return for his investment? (It's worth noting that Murray Energy has no mining presence in Virginia.) What promises has Cuccinelli made to Murray Energy and Bob Murray? Does Murray Energy have any pending business before the state of Virginia? Does Bob Murray have any business before the Office of the Attorney General?