POLITICS

John Boehner Took Money From Freedom Industries, Company Behind West Virginia Chemical Spill

01/15/2014 02:09 pm ET | Updated Jan 25, 2014

UPDATE: The below article was based on a report from The New Republic, which has since posted an update questioning whether the individual who donated to Boehner does in fact work at Freedom Industries. The Huffington Post has put in a call to Freedom Industries requesting clarification, and this story will be updated if we hear back.

An executive at Freedom Industries, the company behind last week's chemical spill in West Virginia, donated $5,000 to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) in 2013, according to a report in The New Republic on Tuesday. The story was published on the heels of Boehner's first public comments on the leak, in which he rejected the need for stricter environmental and energy regulations and instead questioned whether the Obama administration was adequately enforcing existing rules.

According to the report, OpenSecrets.org reveals that Boehner's campaign received two separate amounts of $2,600 and $2,400 in July 2013 from Doug Simons, Freedom Industries' vice president of sales and marketing. The New Republic published the story after receiving a tip from Walter Klapper at Colorado Front Range. The Daily Kos pointed out Saturday, meanwhile, that Freedom Industries also has ties to the conservative Koch Brothers.

Boehner expressed confidence in existing regulations at a Tuesday morning press conference, after he was asked if the spill demonstrated the tradeoff that comes with deregulation.

"The issue is this: We have enough regulations on the books. And what the administration ought to be doing is actually doing their jobs," Boehner said. "I am entirely confident that there are ample regulations already on the books to protect the health and safety of the American people."

"Somebody ought to be held accountable here," he added. "What we try to do is look at those regulations that we think are cumbersome, are over the top, and that are costing the economy jobs. That's where our focus continues to be."

Boehner also asked why the Elk River storage facility, owned by Freedom Industries, that was the site of the spill hadn't been inspected since 1991. Critics have pointed out that while West Virginia law requires inspections on chemical production facilities, it does not require them for facilities used for chemical storage.

The West Virginia spill left more than 300,000 people without access to clean tap water for days, and dozens of residents in need of medical treatment.

"The Speaker has long been skeptical of new regulations, especially when those already on the books aren¹t being effectively enforced," said Cory Fritz, Boehner's campaign spokesman. "The House Energy & Commerce Committee is actively monitoring the federal investigation and working to obtain the facts behind this spill, as is appropriate."

This article has been updated with comment from a spokesman for Boehner.

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