Opinion: Paul no friend of coal industry, or its beleaguered miners; ‘he hasn’t done a single thing’

That’s according to John Winn Miller, a retired journalist, screenwriter and movie producer who took on Sen. Rand Paul in an op-ed piece in this morning’s Courier-Journal.

“Paul pretends to be a friend by railing against big government and the mythical ‘war on coal,'” Miller writes. “But actions speak louder than words. The reality: he hasn’t done a single thing or passed a single bill to help the coal industry, distressed coal counties or out-of-work miners.”

And he cites several examples where the senator’s actions went against the industry’s interests. Miller says Paul:

  • offered an amendment to waive some environmental regulations and wage requirements in high unemployment areas. In other words, screw the coal miners and the health of people living in Eastern Kentucky. It was overwhelmingly rejected (33-64) in the Republican-dominated Senate.
  • supports the Keystone Pipeline and competing industries like cheap natural gas from fracking that — along with the growth of green energy — have far more to do with the demise of coal production than environmental regulations.

Miller’s contention the Republican senator hasn’t helped the industry comes despite the fact it’s been one of his biggest financial backers, according to the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks Federal Election Commission data. In 2015-16, mining companies donated $129,250 of the total $9.5 million he took in, according to the center. The top 10 sources where industries were identified:

Rand Paul industry contributions 2015-16

Paul, an ophthalmologist, got the most support from health professionals: $471,241, or nearly 5% of all.

Coal on the way out

Miller writes: “The reality that Paul won’t admit is that coal production in Kentucky has been declining for decades –- long before President Barack Obama. It is the marketplace and the global shift to clean energy that is killing coal. Even China is starting to reduce coal mining and use.”

Indeed, statewide last year, Kentucky had only 9,493 coal mining jobs, a 46% decline from 17,670 as recently as 2008, according to the latest data from the Energy and Environment Cabinet. Mine operators produced 61.4 million tons, nearly half as much as the 121.2 million in 2008.

Jim Gray
Gray

Paul, who’s in his first Senate term, is up for re-election in November; he’s facing Democratic challenger Jim Gray of Lexington, the candidate Miller says is the only one “with a real, four-point plan to help the coal industry and revitalize coal-dependent counties as well as the ability to work with both parties.”

The Center for Responsive Politics hasn’t examined Gray’s contributions by industry. He’s mayor of Lexington and has led his family’s Gray Construction Co.

McConnell,Mitch-012309-18422-jf 0024
McConnell
What about McConnell?

In his op-ed, Miller doesn’t mention Kentucky’s other senator, Mitch McConnell of Louisville. The Republican Majority Leader has been in the senate since 1985. He has recently said he’s seriously considering seeking another term in 2020, when he would next be up for re-election.

McConnell has raised far more than either Paul or Gray: $29.5 million since 2011, according to the center. In the aggregate, he’s received much more from the mining industry over those five years: $426,050. But in percentage terms, it’s slightly more than Paul’s: 1.45% of all.

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