Coal company owners Craft and Booth plan to take out frustrations with Obama in 2014 election

07/23/2013 07:56 PM

Joe Craft and Jim Booth, two of the most powerful and politically-active coal company owners in Kentucky, say they plan to register their frustration with President Barack Obama by helping pro-coal candidates in 2014.

Of the two, though, Craft — CEO of Alliance Resource Partners and a big donor to the University of Kentucky — was the most forward about his intentions. He will strongly back U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell’s efforts for a sixth term next year because he said he so strongly objects to policies of the Obama administration that he said have contributed to the downturn in the Eastern Kentucky coal industry.

“I just think it’s wrong. So we do need elected officials like Sen. McConnell to continue to fight for coal,” Craft said. “I think it’s critical for the state of Kentucky that we maintain Republicans in these national elections.”

Craft told Pure Politics that he “will probably” donate to independent groups, known as Super PACs, that will get involved in the race on McConnell’s behalf.

Craft said he plans to support Republicans in the upcoming federal races, starting with McConnell. He specifically mentioned that U.S. Rep. Andy Barr, R-Lexington, is “pro-coal.” And Barr could end up facing one of Craft’s fellow UK boosters and “personal friend” Joe Palumbo, the Lexington businessman. (Palumbo and Democrats Elisabeth Jensen and Michael Coblenz have announced their intent to seek the Democratic nomination for Congress).

Craft spoke with Pure Politics on Tuesday after speaking at the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce’s annual meeting. Here’s part of the interview with Craft about political issues:

Craft and Booth, of Inez, said the Environmental Protection Agency under the Obama Administration has unfairly imposed rules on Appalachian coal mines, delaying or blocking new mine permits and making it more costly to mine.

But Booth, CEO of Booth Energy and a major donor to Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear, was more coy about how he plans to show his displeasure in the 2014 election.

“I would have a difficult time supporting someone who supports the Obama agenda,” Booth said.

Booth gave $2,500 to McConnell’s re-election campaign last fall — long before other candidates announced for the race. But he said he was reserving judgement about whether he would give more to McConnell or to someone else.

Booth has given more than $434,000 to candidates for federal office and national and Kentucky political party groups since 1997, according to a review of his donations published by the Federal Election Commission.


Subscribe to email updates.

Subscribe and get the latest political intelligence delivered to your inbox.