Mitt Romney teamed up with controversial coal magnate Bob Murray for a fundraiser Thursday in the same Wheeling, WVa., hotel where Murray last fall hosted a similar event for Texas Gov. Rick Perry's failed presidential bid.
Murray, CEO of Murray Energy, the nation's largest independent, family-owned coal producer, is an outspoken climate-change denier who captured national attention in 2007, following a collapse at his company's Crandall Canyon mine in Utah that killed six miners and three rescue workers. Murray Energy's history of unsafe practices has resulted in hundreds of citations and millions in fines.
Final reports on the Crandall Canyon collapse cited unsafe practices. Murray blamed an earthquake. The government investigation also singled out Murray's "volatile behavior" during daily briefings for family members of trapped miners, where he "frequently became very irate and would start yelling," sometimes making young children cry, according to the Associated Press.
Big coal's defensiveness was on display for Romney donors Thursday night, when Murray, a major donor to Republican political campaigns, was given the most coveted role at any fundraiser -- introducing the candidate.
Murray said that "jobs and family livelihoods are being destroyed as [President Barack Obama] appeases his radical environmentalist friends, the unionists, the liberal elitists on the 'left' coasts and in New England, [the] Hollywood characters and his other constituencies."
"If I can’t sell you coal and keep it going, you’re all gone, and you know that," Murray told the crowd of approximately 680 guests. "That’s why you’re here tonight.”
Romney gave his standard stump speech, surprising given the strong pro-coal crowd. He varied only a little from the speech he gave the night before to a sophisticated crowd of 250 in Northern Virginia. There, Romney was introduced by Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, who called for more oil and gas drilling off Virginia's coast without the name-calling.
Romney's standard schtik about Obama's energy policy begins by questioning the president's stated support for domestic energy exploration. “I finally figured it out," Romney goes on to say. Obama "is for all the sources of energy that come from above the ground, which means wind and solar. I like all above the ground and below the ground, and we’ll develop those resources to get America free of our dependence on foreign energy.”
For global-warming deniers like Murray, Romney's inconsistent positions on climate change are tough to swallow. So is Romney's reluctance to attack scientists, or to boost the far-right's contention that man-made climate change is a liberal hoax.
Guests paid $2,500 per person, and drank wine from plastic cups, according to a pool report. The event closed with a group prayer.