For months, Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell has accused his Democratic opponent, Alison Lundergan Grimes, of engaging in a “war on coal,” casting her as an outright enemy of one of the state’s most vital industries.
But while McConnell presents himself as a defender of Kentucky coal mining, a member of his own family who serves as a key campaign surrogate is taking a role in an organization that funds one of the most aggressive anti-coal campaigns in the country.
McConnell’s wife, former Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao, sits on the board of directors of Bloomberg Philanthropies, which has plunged $50 million into the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal initiative, an advocacy effort with the expressed goal of killing the coal industry.
In 2011, Bloomberg Philanthropies teamed up with the Sierra Club to target coal plants for closure in an effort to “end our nation’s reliance on dirty coal, plant-by-plant, community-by-community, and state-by-state,” according to Bloomberg Philanthropies’ website. The Bloomberg Philanthropies-funded campaign has a stated goal of “retir[ing] a third of the nation’s 500 coal plants by 2020, replacing the majority of retired coal plants, and keep[ing] coal in the ground in Appalachia.” The organization boasts that it has “prevented 150 coal plants from being built” and has taken direct action against 16 plants in McConnell’s home state of Kentucky, arguing that coal production is a health hazard and is harmful to the environment. The website takes credit for retiring 172 “dirty power plants” with “351 to go.”