September 16, 2014

Federal Election Commission’s Failure to Act Leaves Murray Energy Employees Vulnerable

By Carrie Levine

Robert Murray

Nearly two years ago, CREW filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) alleging Murray Energy CEO Robert E. Murray illegally coerced employees to contribute 1 percent of their annual salary to the company’s PAC and threatened them with reprisals, including losing their jobs, if they didn’t do it. Not surprisingly, the toothless FEC appears to have done nothing in response to CREW’s complaint, leaving Murray Energy’s employees with no protection.

Earlier this month, a Murray Energy preparation plant foreman filed a lawsuit against the company claiming she was illegally fired in early May 2014, in part because she failed to contribute to Mr. Murray’s handpicked political candidates. The foreman, Jean F. Cochenour, attached to her lawsuit a copy of a letter sent after her termination as an example. It asked her to make contributions of $200 each to four Republican Senate candidates: Scott Brown in New Hampshire; Edward Gillespie in Virginia; Terri Lynn Land in Michigan; and Mike McFadden in Minnesota. The letter specifically asked for contributions to be given in connection with a planned June 16, 2014 fundraising event.

Murray Energy calls Ms. Cochenour’s claims “wholly without merit.” If true, however, Mr. Murray’s coercive tactics appear to have been lucrative for the four Senate candidates named in the May fundraising solicitation. Campaign finance disclosure reports show they collectively received roughly $42,000 in June 2014 from donors who reported being employed by Murray Energy or by a Murray Energy subsidiary, including Mr. Murray himself. It’s impossible to know if all those contributions are linked to the Murray Energy fundraiser, but Ms. Cochenour’s lawsuit, and the earlier allegations against the company, raise serious questions — and show it’s long past time for the FEC to act.

Read CREW's recent supplement to the 2012 complaint against Murray Energy

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