Fact Check: Did President Trump blame Don Blankenship for the UBB mine disaster?

FALSE - It is just the opposite. The Department of Justice is conducting an investigation into Blankenship's unfair conviction.

A recent ad claimed that President Trump said Don Blankenship was rightly found guilty for his role in the UBB mine explosion and the death of 29 miners. The truth is that President Trump has not said a single word about Blankenship’s role in the tragedy at Upper Big Branch, and the Department of Justice is conducting an investigation into prosecutorial misconduct and the conviction itself.

Don Blankenship was never even charged for anything related to the explosion at UBB.

As reported in the Washington Times, Blankenship’s attorneys have been given new information that shows federal authorities are reopening the case. This is the same Department of Justice that the ad claims blamed Blankenship for the explosion less than a year ago.

We have found that this accusation is baseless, and not rooted in fact. We rate this claim as FALSE.

Fact Check: Has Patrick Morrisey been a loyal supporter of President Trump?

FALSE - Patrick Morrisey opposed Trump's candidacy in the primary, and then lied about supporting him in the past

In the May 10 presidential primary, West Virginia voters supported Donald Trump with 77% of the vote. But Patrick Morrisey, as a Convention Delegate, refused to endorse Trump for at least another 70 days. In fact, Morrisey was the last Delegate out of 34 to declare his support.

“Morrisey registered to be a delegate and remains uncommitted to a particular presidential candidate… ”
– Charleston Gazette, 5/13/16

The Associated Press reported, “Morrisey said he thinks it’s his job as an elector to support the will of West Virginia’s voters, who overwhelmingly supported Trump.” However, as a Convention Delegate, he had different thoughts.

When you run unaffiliated, you have the ability to make a seasoned judgement choice.
– WV Metro News, 4/14/16

However, after Trump won the presidency and Morrisey had survived his own election, he claimed to have been a Trump supporter all along.

But did Morrisey support President Trump against Hillary Clinton? You’d never know by checking his Twitter account.

It is a FACT that Patrick Morrisey never tweeted one positive thing about President Trump during his race against Hillary Clinton.

The facts speak for themselves, Patrick Morrisey refused to support President Trump and showed no real signs of supporting him even against Hillary Clinton.

Fact Check: Did Don Blankenship revitalize the Republican Party in West Virginia?

TRUE - In the absence of an effective state party, Don Blankenship led the effort to support Republican causes in West Virginia

Prior to any  aspirations for public office, Don Blankenship was committed to Conservative causes in West Virginia.

In 2002, Blankenship donated $100,000 of his own money to help build a new Republican headquarters in the state.

In 2005, Blankenship again spent $400,000 of his own money to help repeal the sales tax on food. The year after, Republicans cut the food tax in half and in 2013 it was gone altogether.

Getting rid of the food tax saved every West Virginian money on their groceries — a tax cut of $1.5 BILLION.

“Don was a real patriot for so many conservative causes earlier last decade.”
– Rob Cornelius

Perhaps Blankenship’s most effective contribution to the Republican party came in 2004 when he spent over $4 million to get Brent Benjamin elected to the West Virginia State Supreme Court. Justice Benjamin was the first Republican elected to the court in more than 80 years.

According to the West Virginia Secretary of State’s office, in 2006, Blankenship spent just over $5.1 Million on independent expenditures supporting Republican causes in the state. He helped to put a Republican on the ballot of every state House of Delegates election, a legislature which is now Conservative and has a Republican majority.

West Virginia Republicans already owe Blankenship for their party’s newfound strength in the state. He spent much of the last two decades investing in GOP candidates and staff, laying the groundwork for the party’s eventual takeover of West Virginia’s state legislature and three congressional seats.
-The New Republic, March 30, 2018

In addition to his political donations, Don has been directly involved in fighting for causes that are important to West Virginians. In 2009, he organized a rally to support the coal industry and oppose federal legislation that would be detrimental to the state’s economy. The event was attended by approximately 75,000 people, and featured stars like Hank Williams Jr. and Sean Hannity.

West Virginia used to be known to the United States as a Democratic stronghold. In the last decade, it has quickly transitioned from a state dominated by unions and progressive politics to one that challenges government corruption and longs for conservative solutions.

The Facts: Much of the revitalization of the Republican Party and conservatism in West Virginia can be attributed to the efforts of Don Blankenship.

Fact Check: Is Patrick Morrisey closely connected to anti-gun and pro-abortion groups?

TRUE - Morrisey's wife is a founding equity partner and second largest share owner of a lobbying firm that represents gun control advocacy groups and abortion activist Planned Parenthood

Patrick Morrisey claims to be a pro-gun, pro-life Conservative, but are these just words or true convictions?

Morrisey’s wife’s lobbying firm, Capitol Counsel, represents a group called Americans for Responsible Solutions (ARS). ARS is a gun control advocacy group founded by Rep. Gabby Giffords (D) and is largely backed by liberal anti-gun billionaire Michael Bloomberg. According to The Hill, although ARS has their own internal lobbying group, Capitol Counsel is the only outside lobbying firm working for the organization.

Additionally, the firm lobbied for Planned Parenthood to fight legislation that would defund the organization and prohibit taxpayer-funded abortions. Meanwhile, Patrick Morrisey claims to be in favor of laws exactly like the ones his wife’s firm fought to oppose.

“In March, Capitol Counsel also represented Planned Parenthood in lobbying against the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court, according to lobbying disclosures.”
– WV Gazette Mail, 5/7/2017

Just how much is Morrisey’s wife bringing home from these pro-abortion and anti-gun groups?

As a result of Mrs. Morrisey’s 15 percent ownership share at the firm, and factoring in Capitol Counsel’s $16.5 million per year average lobbying revenue over the last four years, her annual income likely nears or exceeds $1,000,000 and is 85 percent to 90 percent of the Morrisey family’s annual income.
– The Daily Caller, 5/15/2017

The revelations that Morrisey’s family profits in the millions from liberal groups resulted in this DailyCaller headline: “West Virginia Republican’s Wife’s Lobbying Could Hurt Chances In Senate Primary”

Patrick Morrisey and his family actively profits from groups like Americans for Responsible Solutions and Planned Parenthood. It is an issue of concern that these are the same groups he claims to oppose.

Fact Check: Is Evan Jenkins a career Democrat?

TRUE - Evan Jenkins was a successful liberal Democrat in the state Senate, was a spokesperson for Joe Manchin, and pushed for liberal tax policies

Evan Jenkins was a career Democrat from 1992 – 2013 — over 20 years.

In 2013, Jenkins decided to change his party loyalty and become a Republican. But Republican loyalists are pointing to the years that he was a Democrat, which included Barack Obama’s election and re-election for President.

Further muddying the waters for Jenkins, is his record of traveling the state as a spokesperson for Joe Manchin’s campaign for governor (The Herald-Dispatch, October 27, 2004), and hosting a major fundraiser for Manchin (The Associated Press, April 7, 2008).

But what is important to voters now, in 2018 with Jenkins in the Republican primary for a U.S. Senate seat, is how did Jenkins vote in his career?

Throughout his time in office, Evan Jenkins consistently voted for tax increases, cap and trade regulations, and other key liberal policies, putting him at odds with many grassroots Republicans today.

Jenkins voted against conservatives on taxes and fees over 20 times in his career. These included voting against a motion to eliminate the food tax, voting to raise taxes on processed coal (SB 579), voting to increase outdoor advertising fees (SB 675), voting to impose new fees for criminal records checks (SB 415), voting to impose a fee on the transfer of real property (SB 335), voting to increase barbers and cosmetologists’ fees (HB 4337), and more.

Jenkins also supported global warming regulations. In 2009, he voted for a cap and trade bill that was signed by then-Governor Joe Manchin and required 25% of West Virginia’s energy to come from renewable sources by 2025. Real West Virginia Republicans eventually repealed this harmful law with a 95-4 vote in the House and 33-0 vote in the Senate.

Jenkins supported career Democrats for President. In 2004, Jenkins supported John Kerry for president, once named the most liberal man in the Senate. In 2007, he attended a presidential rally for Hillary Clinton.

Knowing his past, the question remains – did Evan Jenkins switch parties simply to win elections?

Our take: It’s hard to see how a liberal who voted for tax increases and cap and trade could switch his positions overnight.

Fact Check: Is Don Blankenship responsible for the UBB disaster?

FALSE - The UBB disaster was most likely the result of a natural gas explosion and evidence shows Blankenship was blamed before an investigation occurred

On April 5, 2010, twenty-nine coal miners were tragically killed in an explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine. Don Blankenship was serving as the CEO of Massey Energy at the time.

Blankenship was blamed, convicted of only a misdemeanor, and thrown in federal prison for a year. Blankenship maintains his innocence, pointing to some disturbing facts about The Mine Safety and Health Administration’s (MSHA) investigation.

Let’s look at the disturbing facts around the timeline:

– Eight days after the tragedy, an administrator for The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) sent an email to MSHA employees claiming, “I want all of you to know that the mine operator blew up the mine, MSHA didn’t.”

– Just 2 days later, after President Barack Obama met with MSHA, Obama called the explosion, “a failure first and foremost of management”, also placing the blame on Don Blankenship.

Why does this timeline matter? According to MSHA’s documentation, their investigation began in late June — over two months after MSHA and President Obama had already convicted Blankenship in the court of public opinion.

Blankenship deserved — at a minimum — the right to a fair investigation without pre-conceived notions. But MSHA had many reasons to blame Blankenship — and not themselves.

More problems with MSHA’s investigation: important information was withheld.

A week or two before the explosion, MSHA completed its AAA (mine-wide, quarterly) inspection of Upper Big Branch and reported that the mine was in good condition. Additionally, they reported that the mine was more well-kept, had better and new equipment than most, and had in many ways exceeded MSHA safety requirements.

Evidence suggests that a deep reservoir of natural gas sat deep below the coal seam at UBB. Further examination indicated that natural gas inundated the mine through a crack found in the mine’s floor. Despite Massey’s insistence on leaving these cracks undisturbed until they could be fully evaluated, MSHA refused their request.

“To put it in perspective, a methane release of this size would completely fill a 2,000 square-foot house with an explosive atmosphere in under 40 seconds, and could fill the volume of a typical mine entry to explosive levels in under 25 seconds,”
– Dr. Christopher Schemel

The ventilation system that was overwhelmed by the sudden influx of natural gas was the same system that had been changed to a lower airflow (reduced by 50%) by MSHA ventilation specialist Joe Mackowiak, who later bragged in an email to his superiors at MSHA and the Department of Labor that he had picked a fight with Massey by denying their ventilation plan, the same one that they had used for many years.

Many experts agree that the story told by MSHA and the Federal government is not the whole truth. In fact, it conveniently withholds much of the information that would allow for a thorough investigation of what actually happened at UBB.

If MSHA had told the truth about the 3.5 million cubic feet of natural gas exiting the mine after the explosion, the press would likely have challenged their dust explosion story and uncovered the fact that MSHA had reduced the airflow by 50%.

This claim is rated FALSE.

Fact Check: Did Patrick Morrisey accept money from drug companies?

TRUE - Morrisey lobbied for and accepts large amounts of funding from drug companies

Attorney General Patrick Morrisey has claimed to be an effective state official in the struggle against drug abuse. However, records show that he has lobbied for, and is currently accepting funds from large drug companies. In addition, his wife continues to lobby on behalf of drug companies, and their connections to one of the largest drug companies being sued over opioids raises serious questions.

West Virginians are hyper-aware of the pervasive drug problem in their communities. West Virginia currently ranks higher than any other U.S. state in drug overdose deaths, and these deadly prescription painkillers continue to pour into towns and neighborhoods all over the state.

“Over the past decade, out-of-state drug companies shipped 20.8 million prescription painkillers to two pharmacies four blocks apart in a Southern West Virginia town with 2,900 people, according to a congressional committee investigating the opioid crisis.”
– WV Gazette Mail, 1/29/18

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, West Virginia’s overdose death rate was 52 per 100,000 people in 2016, higher than any other state in the country.

Patrick Morrisey has lobbied for, and accepted donations from some of the pharmaceutical companies that the state of West Virginia is now suing.

“A close analysis of Morrisey’s financial disclosure to the Federal Election Commission show registered lobbyists at the state and federal levels, as well as consultants, association representatives, attorneys and political action committees representing the pharmaceutical industry, contributed at least a combined $87,950 to the [Morrisey] campaign in its first three months of existence.”
– WV Gazette Mail, 11/4/2017

Additionally, while Patrick Morrisey continues his campaign for United States Senate, his wife currently lobbies for a Washington D.C. firm that represents the pharmaceutical industry, including some of the same companies who contribute to Morrisey’s campaign.

Per Politifact, Denise Morrisey lobbied for Cardinal Health between 1999 and mid-2016. Cardinal Health has been sued hundreds of times over the opioid crisis, including a lawsuit by the State of West Virginia that resulted in a $20 Million settlement. Morrisey has refused to comment on the extent of her lobbying for one of the largest healthcare companies in the middle of the opioid crisis.

Patrick Morrisey also accepted $8,500 in contributions from Cardinal Health. Patrick Morrisey also lobbied for Cardinal Health’s distribution association. Via Politifact:

Prior to becoming attorney general, Patrick Morrisey lobbied for the Healthcare Distribution Management Association, a group that represents drug wholesalers, while working for the law firm King & Spalding, the Gazette-Mail has reported. Among the association’s members is Cardinal Health, which had been sued over the opioid issue by his predecessor as attorney general.

West Virginians need a candidate who is willing to fight the opioid crisis. A candidate like Patrick Morrisey with direct ties to the industry that is ravaging their communities is not equipped to best serve their constituents.

Paid for by Don Blankenship for U.S. Senate

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