Ohio Gov. John Kasich: Doing The Bidding of His Coal Industry Donors?

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This morning, Talking Points Memo published an interview with George Elmaraghy, a former watchdog at the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency who blames the coal industry’s influence with Gov. John Kasich (R-Ohio) for being forced out of his job over including strong federal pollution limits in permits to Ohio coal companies.

As TPM’s Dylan Scott writes, “His story -- which the Ohio EPA and Kasich's office declined to comment on -- suggests an administration beholden to the coal industry and willing to push out employees who weren't going to capitulate to its demands.”

Let’s follow the money. The mining industry donated $305,165 to Kasich’s 2010 election campaign, according to Public Campaign Action Fund analysis of data from the National Institute on Money in State Politics, accessed through Sunlight Foundation's Influence Explorer. Most of that, $270,000, is directly from coal mining interests.

According to a Columbus Dispatch story this weekend, “the governor’s office started asking questions about permits for three other coal companies — Murray Energy, Sterling Mining and Oxford Resources — after officials with those companies and the Ohio Coal Association started to complain in late 2012.”

The Ohio Coal Association donated just $1,000 to Kasich’s 2010 campaign, but employees at all three companies that approached the governor’s office about the permits donated much more.

  • Employees at Murray Energy and its subsidiaries donated over $42,000 to Kasich’s 2010 campaign. Murray CEO Robert Murray donated just under $4,000 to Kasich’s campaign and the company PAC gave $10,000.
  • Kasich received $23,000 from Oxford Mining employees, nearly all in two $11,400 donations from President and CEO Charles Ungurean and co-founder Thomas Ungurean.
  • Sterling Mining is a subsidiary of East Fairfield Coal Company. Its president, Thomas Mackall, donated $3,000 to Kasich’s campaign.

The other top giving coal industry donor is Boich Companies, whose executives (and spouses) gave $135,000 to Kasich’s 2010 campaign.

In an email to colleagues, Elmaraghy wrote, “I am left with the impression that somebody in the Governor's office thought that removing me ... would please the coal industry. I sincerely hope that my suspicion is wrong."

These contributions show that suspicion isn't unfounded.