GOP Senate candidate who went to prison is in trouble again


Convicted criminal Don Blankenship spent a year in prison for violating mine safety rules. Now he could face criminal prosecution again for his disorganized campaign.

Republican coal baron Don Blankenship thinks he can unseat Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), despite being fresh out of prison for a criminal conviction. But apparently old habits die hard, as he now faces new legal troubles.

According to the Charleston Gazette-Mail, Blankenship failed to file his personal financial disclosure forms with the U.S. Select Committee on Ethics by the Sunday deadline, the only one of the eight candidates to fail to do so.

As the Gazette-Mail notes, reports filed after the deadline could mean a $200 penalty. But if Blankenship fails to file at all, he could face a fine of up to $50,000 or even criminal prosecution.

Blankenship, the former CEO of Massey Energy, is no stranger to prosecution. In 2010, an explosion at his Big Upper Branch mine killed 29 miners. Investigations found the explosion was caused by degraded equipment that Blankenship deliberately refused to upgrade.

The New York Times called Blankenship the "kingpin of a criminal enterprise."

In 2016, he was convicted of misdemeanor conspiracy to violate federal regulations, and sentenced to a year in prison.

According to federal prosecutors, Blankenship is "immensely wealthy." Corporate filings show that after the mine disaster, Massey Energy gave him a golden parachute of "$2.7 million upon retirement, a free house for life, millions more in deferred compensation, and a 'salary continuation retirement benefit' of $18,241-a-month that will continue for 10 years after his departure."

Moreover, FEC filings indicate Blankenship is loaning his own campaign hundreds of thousands of dollars. So financial transparency is essential in this race.

Blankenship, for his part, still refuses to acknowledge the legitimacy of his prior criminal conviction. He has cast it as a political hit job by President Obama and has run ads demanding Manchin — who was governor of West Virginia at the time — "tell the truth" about the incident.

Republicans are terrified that Blankenship could win the nomination in West Virginia, a state thought to be one of the GOP's best shots at picking up a Senate seat. Some Republican operatives fear he will wreck their chances, as accused child molester Roy Moore did in Alabama last year.

But Blankenship is not even the only convicted criminal running for statewide office as a Republican this year. Pro-Trump ex-sheriff Joe Arpaio is trying to run for the departing Sen. Jeff Flake's seat in Arizona, after a contempt of court conviction that Trump pardoned away before he could be sentenced.

All over the country, Republicans are dooming their electoral chances with candidates who habitually get in trouble.