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The importance of a coal mine in Beallsville

<p>Over the summer, Mitt Romney held a campaign event in Beallsville, Ohio, with a group coal miners, which was soon after turned into a television ad

Over the summer, Mitt Romney held a campaign event in Beallsville, Ohio, with a group coal miners, which was soon after turned into a television ad in the Buckeye State. But as it turns out, the closer one looks at the campaign stop, the more interesting it becomes.

For one thing, the miners used as props by the Romney campaign lost pay during the event, and were "forced to attend." The Obama campaign even put out an ad of its own on this a few days ago.

This week, however, the story took another twist. The mine in question is owned by Robert Murray, an ardent Romney backer and major GOP donor. He's the one, of course, who told the miners that "attendance" at the campaign photo-op was "mandatory." As Alec MacGillis reports, that's not all he's accused of doing.

Since 2007, employees of Murray Energy and its subsidiaries, along with their families and the Murray PAC, have contributed over $1.4 million to Republican candidates for federal office. Murray's fund-raisers have feted the likes of Scott Brown, Rand Paul, David Vitter, Carly Fiorina, and Jim DeMint. Home-state pols get love, too. Murray's PAC and staffers are the sixth-largest source for Ohio senatorial hopeful Josh Mandel. They've given $720,000 to candidates for state office in the past decade.Internal Murray documents show just how upset Murray becomes when employees fail to join the giving. In missives, he cajoles employees to attend fund-raisers and scolds them when they or their subordinates do not. In cases of low participation, reminders from his lieutenants have included tables or spreadsheets showing how each of the eleven Murray subsidiaries was performing. And at least one note came with a list of names of employees who had not yet given. "What is so difficult about asking a well-paid, salaried employee to give us three hours of his/her time every two months?" Murray writes in a March 2012 letter. "We have been insulted by every salaried employee who does not support our efforts."

Wait, it gets worse.

MacGillis' report added:

The pressure to give begins as soon as employees enter the company, the Murray sources say. At the time of hiring, supervisors tell employees that they are expected to contribute to the company PAC by automatic payroll deduction -- typically 1 percent of their salary, a level confirmed by a 2008 letter to employees from the PAC's treasurer. (That letter also assures employees that they would not be "disadvantaged" by not giving.) Employees are given a form to sign, explaining that the giving is voluntary. "In the interview ... I was told that I would be expected to make political contributions -- that [Murray] just expected that," says the first source. "But I was told not to worry about it, because my bonuses would more than make up what I would be asked to contribute."

If you're thinking this sounds legally dubious, you're not the only one.