The Ohio Democratic Party is asking both state and federal prosecutors to look into allegations that a major coal company is coercing its employees to donate to political causes against their will.
The ODP on Monday sent letters to U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio Steven Dettelbach and Acting Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty asking them to launch a criminal investigation into Ohio-based Murray Energy Corporation.
The letters allege that Murray Energy “may have engaged in a pattern of illegal activity, extorting millions in financial contributions from employees and vendors for Republican candidates running for public office.”
Murray Energy fired back in a Monday statement, saying the allegations “are simply an attempt to silence Murray Energy and its owners from supporting their coal mining employees and families by speaking out against President Barack Obama’s well known and documented War on Coal.”
The allegations stem from an Oct.investigation by left-leaning magazine The New Republic.
The article is based on the accounts of two anonymous former Murray managers and a review of letters and memos to Murray employees. It suggests that employees are pressured into making donations to Republican candidates and contributing to the company’s Political Action Committee.
“There’s a lot of coercion,” one of the sources told the magazine. “I just want to work, but you feel this constant pressure that, if you don’t contribute, your job’s at stake.”
ODP Chairman Chris Redfern told reporters during a conference call that party research found that Ohio political candidates — including all current statewide officeholders — had received almost $750,000 from Murray Energy, its subsidiaries and employees.
Neither Dettelbach or McGinty returned CityBeat calls for comment on any pending investigations.
Murray Energy in its statement called The New Republic biased and radically liberal. The company’s characterization in the article is incorrect and untruthful, according to the statement.
Murray had previously come under fire when Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney held a campaign event at one of its mines. Some workers claim they were pulled out of the mine early when it closed for the event and forced to attend without pay.