To fight off damaging publicity in the wake of the explosion earlier this month that killed 29 West Virginia miners, Massey Energy has turned to a firm run by a top communications specialist from the Bush White House.
Austin-based Public Strategies has been advising Massey's board on how to respond to questions about the disaster and the board's oversight of the company, the Wall Street Journal reported
last week, citing people familiar with the matter. Dan Bartlett, who ran President Bush's PR operation, is Public Strategies' president and CEO. Republican consultant Mark McKinnon, who played a leading role in Bush's presidential campaigns, is another principal.
The Bush administration was known to be friendly to the mining industry. It appointed a mining executive to run the federal agency that oversees mine safety, and President Bush received generous campaign contributions from the industry.
Massey's board has said it is standing by Massey CEO Don Blankenship, despite the company's well-documented history of safety violations under his leadership.
As the Journal noted, Public Strategies has ties to Massey's lead director, Bobby Ray Inman, a retired Navy Admiral who teaches at the University of Texas' LBJ School of Public Affairs, which is supported by the LBJ Foundation. Public Strategies' chairman Jack Martin is on the board of the foundation, and McKinnon teaches at the LBJ School.
Neither Public Strategies nor Massey responded to TPMmuckraker's requests for comment about their work together.