Don Blankenship Speaks Out
WHEELING — Former Massey Energy CEO and current U.S. Senate candidate Don Blankenship said elected government officials should be held legally responsible if policies they enact contribute to a worker’s death.
Blankenship has announced he will run for Senate from West Virginia in 2018 on the Republican ticket.
He was acquitted of felony charges in late 2015 and instead served one year in prison on a misdemeanor charge of conspiring to willfully violate mine safety and health standards after a jury determined he lied about safety procedures at Massey’s Upper Big Branch Mine in Raleigh County, W.Va., where a 2010 explosion resulted in the deaths of 29 miners.
Blankenship, who was released from a federal prison in Calilfornia in May, said legislators who make laws contributing to the death of a worker also should be held accountable.
“It should be the same thing if a government leader makes a change to a law and causes a death or injury,” Blankenship said during a phone interview from his home in Nevada, where he said he was staying for the holidays.
“If you put miners at risk, you should be held responsible.
“In government, you have immunity from actions. When you are working, you don’t. … Elected officials should be responsible for what they do, and the law should be applied to government officials.”
Blankenship said he will be splitting his time between Nevada and West Virginia in the coming year.
Blankenship said he would vote in favor of laws to improve miner safety if elected to the Senate. He said under his leadership at Massey, the company was a leader in the invention of safety advancements “used throughout the world.” He said he invented safety clothing and safety glasses worn by miners, as well as boots that protect the top of the foot from injury. “Everybody thinks something I did had something to do with the explosion (at Upper Big Branch) … ,” Blankenship said. “The government often doesn’t tell the truth because they are politicians. The truth will be out there eventually. Coal miners are still at risk every day for the same reasons.”
Blankenship said he is running for Senate because the country needs people who are interested in helping people, “not the nonsense out of Washington.”
“I think I have that capability,” he said. “The first thing, I want to help children living in poverty. And we need to provide more assistance to get people off the streets.”
Blankenship is hoping to unseat Sen. Joe Manchin, whom he said “can’t do the job.”
“He likes to tout himself as moderate, but moderates don’t support the radical wing of the Democrat Party — the Clintons and Obama,” he said.
Blankenship called himself “conservative” on most issues, but “middle to the left” on social issues.
“We spend so much money on things, and there’s no excuse for not taking on the poor,” he said. “The guys and gals who want to work need to be able to work.”
Blankenship said he worries about the future of the national debt, and said Congress “is going to have to make cuts.”
“Policing the world is expensive, and giving money to Planned Parenthood is expensive and violates the beliefs of many,” he said. “There are billions and billions of dollars being spent that don’t benefit Americans at all.”
He said the “D.C.” in Washington, D.C. is short for “Drama City.”
“There’s constant drama, about what that senator did and what that one didn’t do,” Blankenship said. “Then there’s talk about sexual harassment, and who stole what money. Everyone needs to be held to a high standard — what helps America. And Congress needs to start acting responsibly, not childishly.”