If being anti-union is the ultimate political death knell for Democratic candidates seeking public office, being pro-coal is a close second.
Just ask Katie McGinty, the commonwealth’s former Secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection who is now running for governor. McGinty this week announced she returned $40,000 in campaign contribution from coal executive J. Clifford Forrest, owner of the Kittanning-based Rosebud Mining Co. in western Pennsylvania. As of Feb. 1, McGinty had raised a total of $2.4 million.
Democrats’ allegiance to the environmental lobby and opposition to coal is well known. During the 2008 presidential campaign, then-Sen. Joe Biden famously told an environmental activist that he and running mate Barack Obama do not support coal plants in America. “We’re not supporting clean coal,” Biden intoned in a videotaped exchange that went viral. “Guess what? China is building two every week, two dirty coal plants. And it’s polluting the United States, it’s causing people to die.”
McGinty got her start in public policy working on the reauthorization of the Clean Air Act, a central purpose of which is to improve the environment by modulating, through regulation, greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants. Then-U.S. Sen. Al Gore took notice of McGinty and asked her to join his staff.
In 1993, President Bill Clinton asked her to serve as his Deputy Assistant and then as Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, where her job was to advance policies to combat climate change. In 2000, she was an adviser to Gore’s presidential campaign and a senior policy adviser to the Democratic National Committee (DNC).
Former Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell nominated her in 2003 to lead the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.
If, come April, she is polling among the top three of the seven Democrats currently jockeying for governor, there’s a fair chance she’ll get slammed with a negative ad reminding primary voters that she had to return a hefty sum of money from a coal magnate.