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Men charged in mine kickback scheme are big Tomblin donors

By David Gutman, Staff writer

At least six of the 10 men charged last week for their involvement in an alleged kickback scheme at an Arch Coal mine in Logan County have been major donors to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, campaign finance records show.

Four of the men charged also made major campaign contributions to state Sen. Art Kirkendoll, who Tomblin appointed to his old Logan County senate seat when he became governor in 2010.

The six men who donated to Tomblin’s campaign all gave at least $1,000 and three of them gave $2,000, the maximum allowed under state law in one election cycle, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics, a nonprofit group that compiles state campaign finance records.

In total, the six Logan County men gave $12,250 to Tomblin’s 2011 and 2012 campaigns for governor and $4,000 to Kirkendoll’s 2012 campaign.

Tomblin won a special for governor election in 2011 after former Gov. Joe Manchin was elected to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by the death of former Sen. Robert C. Byrd. Tomblin was re-elected in 2012. The donations to Tomblin comprised only a tiny portion of his campaign fundraising. He raised nearly $8 million for the two campaigns, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics.

Chris Stadelman, Tomblin’s spokesman, said on Saturday that he wasn’t sure of the status of the campaign accounts, so he didn’t know if the money would be returned to the men who have been charged with various crimes related to the kickback scheme, such as extortion, tax evasion and lying to federal agents.

“Gov. Tomblin receives support from many people not only in his home county of Logan, but throughout the state,” Stadelman said. “When these donations were made, there were no allegations of any wrongdoing and the governor supports the U.S. Attorney’s continued investigation.”

For Kirkendoll, the donations from the men charged with federal crimes comprise nearly 5 percent of his total fundraising. He raised about $85,000 for his 2012 campaign.

Kirkendoll could not be reached for comment over the weekend.

U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin charged 10 men on Friday for their roles in what is described a widespread scheme that forced companies to pay kickbacks in order to do business with Mountain Laurel, an Arch Coal underground mining complex near Sharples.

The 10 men were charged via “information” documents, which are similar to indictments, but generally mean that the men are cooperating with prosecutors.

David E. Runyon, the mine’s former general manager, is charged with extortion and tax evasion.

Runyon gave the maximum $2,000 to Tomblin in 2011, $1,000 to Kirkendoll in 2012 and a total of $1,000 to Delegate Rupie Philips, D-Logan, in 2010 and 2012.

Ronald Barnette, the owner of Mining Repair Specialist, is charged with lying to federal investigators about paying kickbacks to obtain work rebuilding mining equipment.

Barnette gave the maximum $2,000 to Tomblin in both 2011 and 2012, he gave $1,000 to Kirkendoll in 2012 and he gave $500 to state Sen. Ron Stollings, D-Boone, in 2010.

David N. Herndon, the owner of MAC Mine Service Inc., is charged with paying kickbacks to continue providing contract labor at Mountain Laurel.

Herndon gave $1,000 to Tomblin in 2011 and the maximum $2,000 to Tomblin in 2012.

Alvis R. Porter, is a former Logan County circuit clerk and the owner of Southern Construction. He is charged with failing to pay taxes, and documents also allege that he paid about $400,000 in kickbacks.

Porter gave at least $1,000 to both Tomblin and Kirkendoll in 2012.

Gary K. Griffith, the former maintenance manager at Mountain Laurel, is charged with lying to federal agents about the kickback scheme.

Griffith gave $1,250 to Tomblin in 2011 and $1,000 to Kirkendoll in 2012.

Stephen B. Herndon, the former Mountain Laurel warehouse manager, is charged with “structuring” a bank withdrawal in relation to the kickback scheme and “serving as a conduit for the transfer of cash.”

Herndon gave $1,000 to Tomblin in 2012.

Reach David Gutman at david.gutman@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5119.


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