By Marc Kovac
A liberal advocacy group has filed a complaint against GOP presidential challenger Mitt Romney’s campaign over a rally at a coal mine in southeast Ohio.
Progress Ohio Executive Director Brian Rothenberg alleges in a letter sent Monday to the Federal Election Commission that Romney for President and Murray Energy Corp. violated campaign-finance law by forcing miners to attend a rally near Beallsville and then using footage of dust-covered workers in campaign ads.
Murray Energy owns the mine where the rally took place, and, according to subsequent news reports, shut down operations the on the morning of Romney’s mid-August visit. Miners were not paid for their time, though attendance at the rally was mandatory.
In his FEC complaint, Rothenberg alleges miners were “coerced” into attending, “essentially forcing these employees to make a contribution to a candidate.”
Rothenberg said Murray Energy should have to disclose the value of the miners’ time, and he wants the Romney campaign to pull the ads featuring the miners.
“It is clear from what happened here that the required attendance of the miners was something of value given by Murray Energy to the Romney campaign, and that is a prohibited corporate contribution,” Rothenberg said, adding, “By coercing the employees to attend the Romney rally, they have forced these employees to make a contribution to a candidate in violation of federal code.”
The Romney campaign dismissed the allegations.
“It remains a widely accepted fact by Democrats and Republicans alike that President Obama has spent the past four years waging a war on coal that has devastated middle-class families and coal communities across the Midwest,” spokesman Christopher Maloney said in a released statement. “These gimmicks by Barack Obama’s left-wing allies are nothing more than an ineffective and pathetic attempt to distract voters away from that reality.”