Eric Lipton, writing in the New York Times, describes a unique cause for a budget-conscious member of the House, selling himself out to the mining industry so indiscriminately that he’s willing to risk the health and safety of workers and cost the federal government billions of dollars in disability payments.
Unsurprisingly, that members of the House is Montana’s Dennis Rehberg, who
… pushed through a provision for 2012 federal budget that blocks the enforcement of a new regulation that would have cut in half the amount of ambient coal dust permitted in mines. Inhalation of the tiny coal particles is blamed for pneumoconiosis, or black lung, a preventable disease that has taken thousands of lives and cost the federal government an estimated $44 billion in federal disability payments since the 1970s.
Lipton’s piece is loaded with documentation about Rehberg’s obeisance to the mining industry. He’s also pushed for land swaps which would benefit mining companies at the expense of taxpayers, lobbied against safety regulations that protect miners, and fought to open copper mining in pristine Montana wilderness.
The mining companies have rewarded Rehberg, with the 7th most donations of all House and Senate members.
The industry has shown its gratitude for his vigilance. “He has been incredibly valuable to us,” said Bud Clinch, executive director of the Montana Coal Council.
Just in the past two years, mining industry executives and companies including big players like Murray Energy, Arch Coal and Cloud Peak Energy have donated nearly $100,000 to Mr. Rehberg’s Senate campaign.
Rehberg doesn’t even want to ensure that mining companies clean up the messes they leave on our land.
It’s just another case of Representative Rehberg putting the interest of corporations ahead of workers, and multinationals ahead of Montanans.
And the influence game doesn’t end with direct contributions to the Congressman. The Rehberg family is in on the act. Rehberg’s son, A.J., who embodies the American meritocracy as well as Luke Russert, has repeatedly lobbied his father’s office in the past year, on behalf of mining interests:
A.J. Rehberg is also an executive at a lobbying firm that is representing Mongolia Forward and the Mongolian government in Washington. That lobbying firm, on behalf of the Mongolian government, has contacted Representative Rehberg’s office repeatedly this year, as well as other members of Congress. Representative Rehberg said in an interview that his son had not personally lobbied him, and that as far as he knew, his office had not taken any steps to help his son’s clients.
Maybe a New York Times story, a Freedom of Information Act request, and just some common sense will lead the Montana media to dig into Representative Rehberg’s sweet deal at the expense of Montana’s workers and lands.