Donald Leon "Don" Blankenship (born March 14, 1950) was the Chairman and CEO of Massey Energy Co., the sixth largest coal company (by 2008 production) in the United States. Prior to obtaining Massey's top leadership position in 1992, Blankenship spent ten years in other positions of the company and its subsidiaries as an accountant. He is a graduate of Matewan High School, West Virginia, and earned a bachelor's degree in accounting from Marshall University in 1972.
As CEO of Massey Energy Blankenship was very involved in politics and an active financial backer of the Republican Party and Tea Party movement.
Blankenship is currently serving a one-year sentence in a federal prison in Taft, Califorinia, for conspiring to break mine safety laws that led to the death of 29 miners in 2010. The luxury "jail" is described by a former inmate to Bloomberg: "“You don’t even feel like you’re in prison when you’re there. [...] It's a camp for white-collar guys and I’m sure that’s how he ended up there. It looks like a junior college campus.”
I’ve been around West Virginia long enough to know that politicians don’t stay bought, particularly ones that are going to be in office for 12 years...So I would never go out and spend money to try to gain favor with a politician. Eliminating a bad politician makes sense. Electing somebody hoping he’s going to be in your favor doesn’t make any sense at all."
-New York Times, February 14, 2009
“I don't believe climate change is real.”
-YouTube (presentation), December 9, 2008
"Why should we trust a report by the United Nations? The United Nations includes countries like Venezuela, North Korea and Iran."
“There are no facts to misstate about global warming, because there is no global warming. The world is cooling, and has been for 10 years.”
-Charleston Gazette Op-Ed, October 30, 2009
"Buy a smaller car? Conserve? I have spent quite a bit of time in Russia and China, and that's the first stage."
"At the end of the day, Don Blankenship is going to die with more money than he needs."
-Rolling Stone, November 29, 2010
"If you're going to start taking pictures of me, you're liable to get shot."
-ABC News, April 7, 2008
"The greeniacs are taking over the world."
-Treehugger, November 25, 2008
Blankenship is widely known for strong anti-union management. Early in his career at Massey as the president of subsidiary company Rawl Sales & Processing, Blankenship weathered a strike organized by the United Mine Workers for over a year, surrounding a mining facility with over two miles of fence, hiring armed guards and dogs, and arranging escort for non-union workers to pass through protesting miners. During this time, Blankenship supposedly slept in a different bed to help avoid being harmed by protesting employees.
Blankenship was particularly close to a 2004 West Virginia Supreme Court Judge election, in which he contributed three million dollars to slander one of the justices presiding over a case involving Massey's tactics to force a smaller company into bankruptcy for the purpose of aquiring it. The slandered justice, Warren McGraw, was replaced by Brent Benjamin, who later presided over a major case for Massey Energy and decided the final vote in favor of the company. Blankenship's $3 million investment protected tens of millions more. The case was later reopened after photos surfaced of Blankenship and state chief justice Spike Maynard vacationing together in the French Riviera Benjamin were photographed in the French Riviera during deliberation of the case, further implicating them of impropriety. The case was ultimately went to the U.S. Supreme Court and was reviewed three times, ultimately ruling in favor of Massey.
Blankenship is also an avid denier of Global Warming and critic of the environmental movement. He frequently refers to Democratic Party leaders as “greeniacs” and equates all efforts to conserve energy through efficiency or any other method as communist.
As Blankenship fought a lawsuit against Massey related to the poisoning of community members through severe wellwater contamination, Blankenship installed a waterline to bring clean water to his own estate. The new system did not bring clean water to Blankenship's neighbors, who continue to fall ill from the effects of leaking coal ash slurry from abandoned mines and storage ponds.
Blankenship retired from Massey Energy under pressure from the Massey board.