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Energy interests fueling Tomblin's W.Va. governor bid

By Lawrence Messina

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - The coal industry and other energy interests are helping to fuel West Virginia's governor's race, contributing both to Republican Bill Maloney and the Democratic incumbent, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, the latest campaign finance reports show.

But while that sector provided one-fifth of each candidate's haul, Tomblin raised two and a half times as much as Maloney. Tomblin attracted $1.2 million between May 21 and Sept. 23, while Maloney received nearly $469,000 during that time, their filings show.

By Sept. 23, Maloney also had less than half as much in his campaign fund as Tomblin, $264,500 to $618,000. Maloney spent $829,600 during the reporting period. Tomblin expended $1 million more than that.

A Morgantown drilling consultant and business owner, Maloney derived a fourth of the amount from his hometown. He also loaned his campaign $250,000 from his own wealth. Maloney had self-financed to the tune of $2.45 million during last year's special gubernatorial race. Tomblin narrowly won that contest for an unexpired term, and his rematch with Maloney is for a full, four-year term.

West Virginia is the nation's second-leading producer of coal, and has seen interest increase in its portion of the Marcellus shale natural gas reserve. But coal production has recently slowed - in part because more power plants are burning cheap natural gas instead - forcing mine layoffs and shutdowns.

The toughening climate for coal has become a major issue in this year's election. The state Coal Association has endorsed Tomblin, dubbing him and U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin as "West Virginia's Team" during uncertain times.

Coal interests account for the lion's share of Tomblin's energy sector contributors. Executives and workers for Alpha Natural Resources, Arch Coal, Consol Energy, Mepco, Patriot Coal and United Coal were among his campaign's donors during the reporting period.

Maloney's contributors also include Alpha and Patriot donors. His largest single source of campaign cash was Swanson Industries. The mining equipment supplier's officials and their spouses gave him more than $7,000.

Some energy interests were among those who gave to both candidates. Jonathan Giesen of mining explosives maker Nelson Brothers Inc., for instance contributed $1,000 to each. So did the political action committees for natural gas players Dominion and Chesapeake Energy. But Chesapeake's chief executive, Aubrey McClendon, also gave $1,000 to Tomblin while company vice president Scott Rotruck contributed $750 to the governor as well.

Construction interests and financial sector donors, including those involved in banking and insurance, each accounted for about 10 percent of Tomblin's and Maloney's totals. Health care interests, mostly physicians and other medical professionals, provided 15 percent of Tomblin's sum. Lawyers provided him with a similar share. Steptoe & Johnson members and their families gave more than $28,000 of that, making it Tomblin's largest single contribution source. Lawyers for another corporate firm, Jackson Kelly, and their spouses provided another $12,000.

The Steptoe firm also hosted one of 29 fundraising events that brought in $900,000 for Tomblin during the filing period. The most successful was at Guyan Country Club in Huntington, and attracted nearly $200,000 in August. Tomblin's in-state events included two in Morgantown which together collected $63,400.

Three of Tomblin's fundraisers were held out-of-state. One was at the Richmond, Va., offices of tobacco giant Altria. Officials from that company gave Tomblin more than $10,000. Nemacolin Resort outside Pittsburgh hosted another event, bringing in nearly $30,000 in early September. Tomblin also spoke the same day at an energy conference there, flying in on a state aircraft. The campaign reimbursed the state $1,049 for travel several days later, his report shows.

Maloney held 20 fundraisers, collecting nearly $394,000. His events include ones in Texas, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Washington, D.C. A June event in Morgantown headlined by Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal marked his biggest haul, bringing in $76,200. Texas Gov. Rick Perry was featured at another Maloney event that month, and that Charleston fundraiser yielded $56,950.

Tomblin spent the bulk of his funding during the reporting period on several major media and consulting firms, mostly for TV ads. Those include Struble Eichenbaum Communications, Global Strategy Group and Media Strategies and Research. The latter firm, based in Fairfax, Va., received $1.4 million of the spending total.

Just over half of Maloney's spending went to one firm, Strategic Media Services, for advertising. He also paid $22,675 to the Charleston consulting firm of Greg Thomas, a GOP operative whose Twitter account was recently suspended by the social networking service. A Twitter official declined to comment on the suspension Friday, while Thomas has not responded to requests for comment. Thomas' firm, Targeted Communication Strategies, received more during the reporting period than either the campaign's manager or its main spokesperson.

Tomblin and Maloney must each file one finance report, in late October, before the Nov. 6 election.


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