The word “family” serves as code so often in political discourse that it can be tough to know what it really means. In the case of a Pennsylvania coal-industry group, it seems to mean, quite clearly, “not families.”

Families Organized to Represent the Coal Economy (FORCE, naturally) does not allow families to join, according to a 2007 version of its website:

membership is through coal and coal related company sponsorship. When a company joins it agrees to distribute FORCE materials and information to its member employees. This distribution network helps FORCE maintain a low overhead while supplying high quality service to its members.

Under, “Who Should Join FORCE?” the site states, “Any Pennsylvania company doing business with the coal industry should be a member of FORCE.” (Hat tip to Sourcewatch for linking to the archived site and to Miles Grant at National Wildlife Federation for pointing it out.)

The organization’s current site provides even less information. It doesn’t even explain the group’s name clearly: “Families Organized to Represent the Coal Economy, Inc. (F.O.R.C.E.) better known as F.O.R.C.E. – families for PA coal is an organization dedicated to promoting the importance of Pennsylvania’s coal …”

The group lists mining companies and related businesses as its “signature sponsors” for 2009. A crop of billboards along the state’s highways promoting “clean coal” bear the group’s name, writes Grant.

I called FORCE’s headquarters to ask about the membership policy and about why it would use a misleading name if, in fact, the group is comprised of businesses, not families. FORCE manager Jeanine Rainone told me she wouldn’t be able to talk today, or tomorrow, or anytime soon, sorry for the inconvenience.

Not to worry—I found something better than an explanation. Much, much better: FORCE has a propagan-tastic children’s coloring book, “Eyes for Frosty.”