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Prominent Romney-backing coal company 'coercing' employees into donating to PACs, GOP candidates

Over the past several months, Mitt Romney has touted his love of coal.

Over the past several months, Mitt Romney has touted his love of coal. In August, he held a campaign rally outside an Ohio mine owned by Murray Energy, one of the country’s largest coal operations. It quickly emerged that the miners were forced to attend the rally, without pay.

On Friday’s The Ed Show, Ed Schultz spoke to The New Republic’s Alec MacGillis, whose recent article “Coal Miner’s Donor” examines a disturbing new link between Mitt Romney and Murray Energy.

MacGillis’ report comes from the accounts of two workers in managerial positions who came forward separately to disclose the pressure they felt to donate to the Murray Energy political action committee and GOP candidates favored by the company, or risk being demoted or denied bonuses. According to MacGillis, CEO Bob Murray has denied the claim, but company officials do track who is giving and who is not.

The two sources requested anonymity for fear of repercussions, but they told MacGillis the same sordid story. “There’s a lot of coercion,” one said. “I just wanted to work but you feel this constant pressure that, if you don’t contribute, your job’s at stake. You’re compelled to do this whether you want to or not.”

“They will give you a call if you’re not giving,” the other said. “It’s expected you give Mr. Murray what he asks for.”

Since 2007, Murray’s companies, employees and PAC have contributed $1.4 million to right-wing candidates for federal offices including Scott Brown, David Vitter, Carly Fiorina, Jim Demint, and Rand Paul. So far, they’ve given the Romney campaign $120,000.

It’s all pretty outrageous, but Schultz asked MacGillis what surprised him the most. He described a shady operation:

“I guess I was surprised to find out just how long this has been going on and we haven’t really heard about it. This is an amazing years-long, widespread system that’s been going on where workers, when they first arrive at this company, are told, ‘Look, we expect you to give to our PAC, that’s part of working here. You’re going to sign a form that lets us take 1% of your pay to give to the PAC, we’d also like you to participate in Mr. Murray’s fundraisers.’ He has these constant fundraisers. And the letters just keep coming to people’s homes. The letters come from Mr. Murray, ‘please come to this fundraiser, I suggest you give $200 or $500 or $1,000, depending on your salary level, and you’re expected to go to this banquet hall in St. Clairsville, a little town near Wheeling.’ And one after another, a who’s who of Republicans come to this little banquet hall and collect these checks.”