COLUMBUS — A southeastern Ohio coal mine owner violated federal elections law when it closed the deep mine for the day and forced miners to attend an on-site rally without pay for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney last month, a complaint filed Monday alleges.
Liberal advocacy group Progress Ohio filed the complaint with the Federal Elections Commission, but director Brian Rothenburg said he would be willing to drop his complaint if Mr. Romney would voluntarily pull his television ad featuring those miners from the air.
The ad is currently airing in coal-rich southeastern Ohio and West Virginia where pollution regulations on power plants pushed by Democratic President Barack Obama’s administration are unpopular. The dollar value of Murray Energy’s allegedly illegal corporate contribution increased with the airing of those commercials, Mr. Rothenburg said.
“I think what was really egregious about this was when I started to see the mineworkers actually being exploited and put in television ads even after these published reports that they were forced to attend the rally,” Mr. Rothenburg said. “That’s just unconscionable.”
On Aug. 14, Mr. Romney rallied outside Murray Energy Corp.’s Century Mine near Beallsville in southeastern Ohio where signs reading “Stop the war on coal. Fire Obama” dotted the rural roads. Murray Energy is the largest private coal company in the nation.
Mr. Romney stood on a stage with miners seemingly just out of the mine, complete with dust-smudged faces, behind him. Many miners in hardhats were also among the crowd in front of the stage.
But some miners later complained to a West Virginia radio station that attendance at the rally event was mandatory and that they were not paid for the work shift that was canceled while Mr. Romney was on site. Robert Moore, executive vice president and chief executive officer of Murray Energy, later denied on the air that employees were forced to attend, but said they should have wanted to be there because of the importance of this election to their industry.
“It remains a widely accepted fact by Democrats and Republicans alike that President Obama has spent the past four years waging a war on coal that has devastated middle-class families and coal communities across the Midwest,’’ said Romney spokesman Chris Maloney. “These gimmicks by Barack Obama’s left-wing allies are nothing more than an ineffective and pathetic attempt to distract voters away from that reality.”
Contact Jim Provance at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 614-221-0496.