November 4, 2010
The 2010 midterm elections—the first since Citizens United opened the floodgates to corporate campaign cash—were the most expensive in history. So what happens next?
“With the recent Supreme Court ruling, we are in a position to be able to take corporate positions that were not previously available in allowing our voices to be heard.” So wrote Roger Nicholson, senior vice president and general counsel of the International Coal Group, a mining company based in WestVirginia, in a letter to other coal companies.
Nicholson goes on to explain that “a number of coal industry representatives recently have been considering developing a 527 entity with the purpose of attempting to defeat anti-coal incumbents in select races, as well as elect pro-coal candidates running for certain open seats. We’re requesting your consideration as to whether your company would be willing to meet to discuss a significant commitment to such an effort."
Coal executives had already been putting money into the races that Nicholson cited as being particularly “of interest” (races against politicians who had supported environmental and safety regulations for coal mining companies) but in the form of individual, legally limited contributions. A 527 would allow them to spend far more.
Of course, the coal industry wasn’t alone in seeing Tuesday’s elections as a historic opportunity for promoting its corporate interests in the political sphere. Finance, health care, energy, telecommunications—lots of industries found they had political needs and the money to protect them.