UNDER MINED….What’s the story behind the story of the tragedy at the Sago Mine? At least part of it is predictable: after George Bush took office in 2001 the Mine Safety and Health Administration was stocked with coal mining executives who were distinctly less interested in mine safety than they should have been. Clara Bingham told the story in “Under Mined,” in the January 2005 issue of the Washington Monthly:

Coal executives, threatened by Vice President Al Gore’s green background and his pledge to increase taxes on fossil fuels, thought they could get a better deal with the Republicans ? when they raised a record $3.8 million dollars for the 2000 federal election, 88 percent went to the GOP. At the annual meeting of the West Virginia Coal Association a few months after Bush’s inauguration, the group’s director told 150 industry executives, ?You did everything you could to elect a Republican president. [Now] you are already seeing in his actions the payback.?

….Bush also demonstrated his friendship to industry leaders when he awarded the top job at MSHA to an executive with Utah’s Energy West Mining Company, David Lauriski, whose top two deputies would also be recruited from mining companies. The woman who would become their boss, Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao, is the wife of Kentucky’s Republican senator Mitch McConnell, a long time political ally of coal companies.

Bingham’s story is primarily about Jack Spadaro, who was hounded out of his job as superintendent of the National Mine Health and Safety Academy after he became a whistleblower on an investigation into a coal waste leak in Kentucky. Read the whole thing.