By DON BLANKENSHIP
The plaintiff attorneys and lifetime politicians in West Virginia have apparently chosen their 2006 election strategy. They have decided to launch a personal attack on me.
Their clear hope is that this attack will somehow divert attention from the real issues of poverty, a lack of jobs, child abuse, drunk drivers, drug abuse, and the politicians' failure to represent the social values of the majority of West Virginians with their votes in Charleston. Their attacks are childish but at the same time evil. They claim I don't care about the safety of coal miners, that I want to do things illegally, and that I want to buy West Virginia.
The truth is that we have done more than perhaps any mine managers ever to improve coal mine safety; that we do the best we can to not only meet but exceed legal requirements and that I have no need or desire to buy West Virginia.
The company I have managed for 15 years has had some accidents and environmental issues. All successful coal companies and, in fact, all companies occasionally do. If you have 6,000 people on the payroll, they will make mistakes and have accidents. We try very hard to prevent all accidents but no one has ever achieved this goal.
We also have many safety equipment enhancements and safety policies that far exceed the law. Environmentally, West Virginia regulators are just now considering the implementation of many environmental controls we implemented at our company long ago.
The political elites' criticism of me is not being done with a purpose of improving West Virginia. The politicians seem totally unconcerned about child abuse, drug use, teenage pregnancies, drunk drivers or protecting West Virginia's social values.
If we are to have any hope of making life better for average citizens and the kids of West Virginia, the politicians have to address real issues instead of defaming the manager of the largest capital investment in the history of the West Virginia coal industry.
The real problem the elite liberal lifetime politicians and plaintiff attorneys have with us is not the occasional mining issues. Additionally, they are not afraid that I'm trying to buy West Virginia.
Their real problem is that I'm not willing to be a part of their political games. You see, they do want me to buy something. They want me to buy their support and their favor just like businessmen and others have been required to do in West Virginia for decades.
It's always been easy to buy political favors in West Virginia. All you have to do is buy things from their family's businesses; donate to their political candidates; or hire their friends and relatives.
I've lived in West Virginia most of my life and if I wanted to buy political favors from incumbent legislators, I'm well aware of how it works. We've all watched it for years. Politicians want people to give them money and turn their head to the poverty, child abuse, loss of jobs, drunk drivers, etc., in West Virginia. If I did so, I'd be as popular as they are. I'd also be just as wrong as they are.
But my goal isn't to bathe in the Governor's $62,000 bathroom that you paid for with your taxes, or to go to their parties, or to go to their meetings at luxury hotels.
Instead, I would like to see West Virginia move down from first in child abuse and up from last in job creation. If West Virginia is going to improve, it will take courage, leadership and change. The liberal politicians and plaintiff attorneys already have it pretty good in their world and so they fear change. They also fear the truth.
Yes, the problem politicians have with me is an obvious one. I won't play their game with them. The one thing that you can count on is that they could be bought cheap. That has always been the case.
That's the reason they accuse me of trying to buy West Virginia. In their mind that's what they've always done so their first thought is that I'm trying to buy the state out from underneath them. Simply put, if you don't play along with the politicians, they say bad things about you.
Most of you reading this know how politics work -- so do I. But again, I have no interest in playing their political games. If I did, the price to play in their game would only be a few thousand dollars, not the millions I've spent trying to help our state and the people that live in it.
Mean-spirited politicians can sometimes change what people think of you or of an issue. But they can't change what's right or wrong.
Blankenship is CEO of Massey Energy.