(07/27/2005)
Don Blankenship, Massey Coal's CEO, is suing just about everyone.

Now, it's WVs governor Joe Manchin.

Blankenship filed suit against Manchin yesterday in federal court alleging the governor violated his free speech rights by threatening to retaliate for Blankenship's opposition to a proposed pension bond constitutional amendment.

The suit seeks damages, declamatory and injunctive relief.

Blankenship spent tens of thousands of dollars opposing the bond, using TV, radio and direct mail fliers.

Manchin has reportedly said Blankenship should expect tougher state scrutiny of his business affairs since he launched a media campaign against Manchin's pension bond proposal.

Blankenship said the bond sale was not necessary because the state can afford to make annual payments into the pension systems.

The governor wanted to sell five billion dollars in bonds to shore up state pension programs.

The bond sale proceeds would have been invested, and the return was to be applied toward pension-fund shortfalls.

WV voters rejected the plan 54 percent to 46 percent.

Manchin said he was saddened to learn of the filing of the lawsuit, which he called frivolous.

Blankenship invested millions of dollars in defeating WV Supreme Court justice Darrell McGraw, helping elect Republican Brent Benjamin.

McGraw was known to rule against the coal giant.

Blankenship receives at least $6.1 million in salary, plus lots of perks, as the CEO of West Virginia's largest coal producer.


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