Pay to Play at Legislature As Coal Bosses Cash In

What happened when Big Coal picked up the dinner tab in this year’s legislative session? They got a big old dessert for their investment.

In a recent column, Charleston Gazette/Mail reporter Phil Kabler reported that the various coal lobby interests paid out $16,414 during the legislative session just to feed, wine and dine various lawmakers and staff.

Kabler observes that “it appears 'Big Coal' pulled out all the stops in pursuit of legislation to roll back the severance tax on steam coal from 5 percent to 3 percent, saving the industry an estimated $60 million a year.”

When any big business gets a $60 million roll-back from paying into state revenue, it’s the mom-and-pop businesses and working families that have to make up the difference just to keep state services funded and roads fixed.

That’s just not fair. Lawmakers who vote for giveaways to fatten the bottom lines of their crownies should be shown the door in 2020.

Of course, these one-on-one elegant restaurant events and various group feeds right at the state Capitol are just the tip of the sirloin. The main course is direct contributions to legislator’s campaigns and so-called “independent expenditures” (IEs) by Super PACs that get many ‘friends of coal’ elected in the first place.

Coal and chemical industry donations during the 2018 elections to just one Super PAC aligned with Senate President Charmichael (one of the main movers of the unpopular Charter School bill) totaled  $226,000.

This “pay to play” system is a corrupting influence on our state government. These kind of payoffs should be illegal.

Our democracy should not be for sale to those who have the most to gain from big-dollar contributions.

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IMAGE: Avel Chuklanov, unsplash.com