Coal miners who work for Murray Energy have one request for President Obama: stop lying.
On Friday, the miners held a press conference asking the president to pull the ad. Here’s the press conference:
It quickly became a 30-second attack ad, by a group called “Checks And Balances For Economic Growth.”
Checks And Balances For Economic Growth is registered at the Washington, D.C., address of the law firm Webster, Chamberlain & Bean — an address shared by a number of conservative organizations, including, at one time, Tom DeLay’s former political action committee. Thanks to the murky world of PAC contributions, it’s not clear if Checks And Balances For Economic Growth is linked to Murray Energy PAC, the PAC run by mine owner Robert Murray to which, it seems, employees are forcefully encouraged to contribute.
There’s little doubt that the miners in the video are concerned about their jobs. There’s good reason to be. And it seems likely that the miners at the press conference appeared there willingly, though, as mentioned above, the company is apparently not averse to encouraging political action by its employees.
The key issue is the miners’ claim that Obama is “lying” in his ads. So let’s turn to this recent radio interview with Murray Energy’s executive vice president Rob Moore.
In Moore’s words:
There were no workers that were forced to attend the event. We had managers that communicated to our workforce that the attendance at the Romney event was mandatory, but no one was forced to attend the event. … We had people that did not show up that day, and there were no consequences or repercussions taken against any employee who did not attend the Romney event.
Emphasis added. The distinction between an event being mandatory and managers telling employees an event is mandatory is lost on me.
When asked why the mine was closed, Moore replied:
Our management people wanted to attend the event, and we could not have people underground for that reason.
No doubt these are the same management people who also “want” to donate to the company PAC.
Moore insisted, “we closed it down for safety reasons and for security reasons.”
When pressed by the radio host — who has received emails from employees insisting that they were made to attend and docked pay — Moore explained that the FEC wouldn’t allow the company to pay miners to attend a political rally. When pressed why miners who chose not to attend (if that was an option) didn’t receive compensation, Moore said, “As a private employer, it was our decision. And we made the decision not to pay people for that day.” Moore continued:
We’re talking about an event that was in the best interest of anyone that’s related to the coal industry in this area or the entire country. I do not believe that missing an eight-hour day, when you put it into perspective, when you think about how critical — how critical this next election is, and how critical it is that we get someone in this office that supports coal. To give up eight hours for a career, I just don’t believe that there is anything negative about that.
Again, emphasis added.
We suspect that the Obama campaign won’t soon remove the ad from circulation.