THE BLOG
01/16/2015 03:32 pm ET Updated Mar 17, 2015

Industry Campaign Contributions Should Disqualify Rauner's Pick for Natural Resources Director

Governor Bruce Rauner's pick to head the Illinois Department of Natural Resources has taken at least $20,000 in campaign contributions from corporate interests he would be charged with regulating. State Representative Wayne Rosenthal is expected to be named to lead the agency that manages safety, permitting, and regulation of mining and drilling.

Coal billionaire Chris Cline's Foresight Energy and two other Cline Group companies, Hillsboro Energy and Macoupin Energy, gave a combined $13,250.00 to Rosenthal's campaign fund over the past five years. The Cline Group operates several mines in Illinois.

Other contributions include $2,470 from the Illinois Coal Association, $2,880 from Petroleum Political Education Committee, and $1,500 from Exxon Mobil.

Foresight Energy also gave $10,000 to Rauner's campaign fund and was a top inauguration sponsor giving up to $100,000. It's looking like business as usual in the new administration.

Two former acting directors of Mines & Minerals were removed from their positions last year after it was discovered they accepted political contributions from Chris Cline companies. Donations were given to county Democratic Party funds chaired by the two men while they were employed by IDNR.

Following the donations, two fatal accidents occurred at Cline Group's Class M mine in Franklin county. An investigation by the Federal Mine Safety & Health Administration blamed the company for failing to maintain a roof bolting machine in safe operating condition and failing to have proper policies and procedures in place that could have prevented the accident in May of 2014.

Mine workers deserve to know their safety isn't in the hands of someone who took campaign cash from the coal industry. There are deadly consequences if companies receive special treatment from state regulators. The contributions will leave a cloud of suspicion around any action Rosenthal may take in favor of corporate special interests.

Besides being an enthusiastic supporter of fracking, Rosenthal's focus in the last session of the legislature was on a series of bills to allow hunting for nearly every conceivable animal. He was chief sponsor of a bill vetoed by Pat Quinn that would have allowed bobcat hunting and passed another bill into law that allows shooting "any fur-bearing mammal with a shotgun loaded with slugs." Rosenthal owns a hunting and fishing preserve that may be impacted by several bills he sponsored.

The Department of Natural Resources is an agency badly in need of the new start Rauner promised during the campaign, free from corrupt influence by special interests. If Rauner refuses to withdrawal the nomination, the Senate Executive Appointments committee should vote to reject Rosenthal and insist on someone without close ties to the coal, oil, or gas industries.