After President Obama won reelection, Ohio-based Murray Energy Corp. immediately laid off more than 160 workers, blaming clean air protections and taxes. Before Murray announced its “survival mode” layoffs, the company donated $100,000 to Karl Rove’s American Crossroads in September, according to FEC records reported by Politico.
Murray responded that “the donation to American Crossroads, which was made several months in advance of the layoffs, and our decision to layoff employees are two totally unrelated events.” Since 2011, Murray Energy has spent at least $1.24 million on political contributions exclusively backing Republicans and $1.57 million on lobbying. Murray himself was active in Republican election efforts, personally campaigning and donating to the Romney campaign.
Last Thursday, a memo addressed to Murray emlpoyees said “we cannot bleed cash waiting for our competitors to be eliminated.” When Murray addressed laid-off workers, he literally sent them off with a prayer:
Lord, please forgive me and anyone with me in Murray Energy Corp. for the decisions that we are now forced to make to preserve the very existence of any of the enterprises that you have helped us build. We ask for your guidance in this drastic time with the drastic decisions that will be made to have any hope of our survival as an American business enterprise.
Obama’s first term has not shown any indication coal suffers from a “drastic time.” Ohio coal mining jobs were up 30 percent from 2007, to 2,570 jobs, and coal industry employment grew nationwide to reach its highest level since 1996. The coal layoffs the industry often blames on Obama are driven by economic forces, not regulations, as utilities use significantly cheaper natural gas.
Murray drew criticism this year for using coal miners as a political tool. Murray Energy allegedly forced coal miners to attend a Romney campaign rally without pay and to contribute to Republican candidates.