A new story from Marketplace

Automatic TRANSCRIPT

Support this NPR station from NPR news this is All Things Considered I'm ari Shapiro and America these Kelly throughout his time in office president trump has tried to help the coal industry is rolled back environmental regulations he's pushed for subsidies and yet coal fired power plants continue to close today's casual to a major coal company run up by one of trump's biggest supporters and here's Jeff Brady reports on the bankruptcy of Marie energy in the Murray energy lobby in Saint Clairsville Ohio there's a photo of founder Bob Murray with president trump giving two thumbs up and in Murray's big corner office there's a replica of airforce two signed on the wing by vice president Mike pence there's also a constant hissing sound at seventy nine years old Bob Murray suffers from a lung condition that requires him to be on oxygen he says it's not related to his business check for that and it's not as a vendor was working in the coal mines which I did for seventeen years underground every day Murray built his business over decades and now says it's the largest underground coal mining firm in the country he accomplish that by buying other coal companies now a combination of large debts and a declining call market has forced them into bankruptcy my goal is to keep the company that keep it together for my employees as part of Marie's agreement that lenders his nephew Robert Moore will become president and CEO Murray will remain as chairman despite president trump's campaign promise to help the coal business dozens of coal power plants are shut down since he was elected Murray doesn't blame trump for his company's bankruptcy he says the administration has been helpful in rolling back environmental regulations Murray specifically asked for most of them including replacing president Obama's clean power plan and withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement but Murray says the coal industry needs even more help the government should be stepping in keeping coal fired generation in existence it's done nothing Marie once the federal energy regulatory commission or for contest subsidize struggling coal plants he says Cole with its fuel stored on site is more reliable the natural gas that has to be piped in hand renewable energy that only generates when the sun is shining in the wind blows so far regulators in grid operators have not been persuaded wearable crisis resiliency reliability and apart people want to freeze in the dark that is a prediction Marianne hit of the Sierra Club regex frankly this is just a scare tactic for those who want to try to take our country backwards into a twentieth century energy economy it says now the world needs renewable energy that doesn't contribute to climate change she says US power grids are managed by knowledgeable engineers focused on keeping electricity flowing every time a coal plant is proposed for retirement their job is to make sure that as that coal plant retires that our lights will stay on and there will be any threat to the reliability of our electricity coal miners represented by the United mine workers of America that will likely will suffer because of this bankruptcy industry analysts Natalie Biggs with wood mackenzie says Murray was one of the last remaining companies contributing to the union's pension fund you know without Murray energy a lot of the retired coal miners are gonna you know find themselves potential in a difficult situation when it comes to the pensions the union is asking Congress for help meantime US coal consumption has fallen to its lowest level in forty years as more utilities and states commit to energy with lower or no greenhouse gas emissions Jeff Brady NPR news Saint Clairsville Ohio earlier this month to business partners of Rudy Giuliani were arrested on their way out of the country they're accused of violating federal campaign finance laws part of the scheme allegedly involved funneling more than three hundred thousand dollars from a shell company to a super PAC supporting president trump we've been talking with some experts in election law and many of them are surprised not the size of the donation or the attempt to cover up the source of the funds those things are actually pretty common their surprise the love part us and Igor Fuhrman didn't cover their tracks better because there are options for people who want to completely obscure big political donations and here to talk about that is Robert McGuire of citizens for responsibility and ethics in Washington welcome thanks for having me our colleague Jeff Brady talk to left partners before the arrest and here's how he explained the donations this is actually the first couple times that I really started doing some bigger donations because I wanted to get notoriety from my energy company and I thought it might be a great way to you know play with the big boys as you call it now its so called energy company appears to have just been a shell company created weeks before the big donations but if you imagine the parties came to you and said here's what I want to do and I want to hide the money what would you have advised well you know America first action for example the super PAC they gave to house a five oh one C. for social welfare arm the doesn't have to disclose its donors it's run by essentially the same people out of the same address it is nominally a social welfare organization that's supposed to do things that benefit the community but these function essentially as stealth political groups that have the benefit of not disclosing the donor so the easiest way for them to have avoided the situation the now find themselves in is just to have given to that arm of the group there's obviously difference in transparency between the super pac on the one hand in the C. four on the other hand is there also a difference in how these groups can spend that money there is sort of on paper their rules for these groups and how much political activity they can engage in but the rear he is that in practice these groups can act essentially as stealth political committees they can spend millions of dollars to buy tens of thousands of apps for months and months and months out before an election and not report that spending to the Federal Election Commission unless it's thirty days before primary sixty days before general but there's also they can give grants to other politically active five one C. fours and count that as social welfare activity and that creates this turn where you see sort of daisy chains of groups they give grants to each other to offset their political spending so there's sort of a a wealth of options for these groups to make sure that they are maximizing the amount of money they're spending on politics without disclosing any donors so if I'm trying to donate half a million dollars to a campaign in order to buy some influence and curry favor with the candidate but I don't want the public to now is there any way that the candidate can find out because because I want them to know that I'm a big supporter there is right that is actually the key of dark money so we're not talking about no one knowing who is behind the group we're saying the public doesn't know but the candidates know who's funding these groups given that there are these more secretive options available why do you think left harness and eager freemen allegedly gave in a way that was so easy for them to get caught well I think if you listen to the clip it kind of gives some indication of they weren't sophisticated political donors they realize the reality that is if you are a major donor you are buying access to powerful people and indeed there are photos of them with very powerful people ranging from the governor of Florida to the president himself precisely what they didn't know so much as how to cover their tracks and it's unfortunate that there are much more sophisticated political donors that know exactly how to do that and make sure that the public doesn't know who is funding these groups and who is being repaired once these people are in office but it seems that in this case we had two people who it just sort of dove in head first and ran into the reality that there are ways to do this where you don't get in situation where they are now Robert McGuire.

Coming up next