Moscow MItch is certainly covered in something dirty, but it ain’t coal dust from helping coal miners. From Erin Banco of The Daily Beast:
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell last month blocked a measure that would have used Treasury Department funds marked for Appalachian development to help pay for coal miners’ health care and pensions in his home state of Kentucky.
But just a few months earlier, McConnell successfully steered near-identical Treasury funds for Appalachia to bankroll a Kentucky aluminum plant connected to an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The American company that wants to build that aluminum plant is called Braidy Industries, and Braidy got $200 million dollars from the Russians for this deal:
A Russian company wants to invest $200 million in Braidy Industries' planned aluminum rolling mill near Ashland — a major capital infusion for the roughly $1.7 billion project, which taxpayer-backed Braidy is working to fully finance.
United Co. Rusal plans to invest in the plant, which is set to open fully in 2021 and produce aluminum sheet for the automotive industry, where demand for such materials is projected to grow significantly in the coming years.
Rusal will supply aluminum for the new mill from an aluminum smelter that's under construction in Siberia and will receive a 40% share in the mill in return for its investment, according to a news release from the Russian company.
Rusal is controlled by Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska. Oh, that is right! Deripaska supposedly divested enough shares of Rusal that he doesn’t technically control it anymore. And it was after that little financial shifting that Rusal was taken off U.S. sanctions list with the help of Moscow Mitch.
And here is where things get even more blatantly Trumpian in it’s crookedness with this deal:
Since 2016 the federal government has given states in Appalachia millions of dollars from the Treasury Department to help clean up and reform abandoned coal mining land, and to assist in economic and community development in those areas. McConnell and other Kentucky lawmakers, including Rep. Harold Rogers (R-KY), have advocated that the state continue to receive that federal funding given the impact of coal companies’ bankruptcies. Two companies, EastPark Industrial and Ashland Alliance, applied for $7 million from the pot of federal money from the Kentucky state government in November 2017 for general sewer and road repair on 204 acres of land. The application also included infrastructure improvements.
In October 2018, McConnell, Rogers, and Kentucky officials announced that EastPark and Ashland would get $4 million. Then, in March 2019, the applicants confirmed that the $4 million would not go to funding general repairs but would instead go prepping for construction on the aluminum plant.
The emboldened is mine.
It is not clear when talks between Braidy Industries and Rusal began, but two sources with direct knowledge of the $4 million payout said McConnell went to bat for the applicants during the internal review process and was instrumental in helping them secure the federal funding.
So two bankrupt coal mines were to get money for infrastructure development and general sewer and road repair. But that is not happening now because that money is going to Braidy and Rusal.
And it keeps getting worse. It appears that McConnell blocked an effort to get federal funding for coal miners’ pensions. Senator Manchin of WV wanted a vote on his amendment to get federal funding for the miners’ pensions, but McConnell said, “No.” Moscow Mitch claims that he is looking for a “permanent” fix to the underfunded coal miners’ pensions.
Manchin and the coal miners’ union aren’t buying that load of BS. The union claims that Moscow Mitch is punishing coal miners for supporting Democrats in the past — think Alison Lundergan-Grimes in 2014.
It would be great if some Democrats in KY were to shine a spotlight on this develepment.