Coal and marijuana make curious political bedfellows – or do they?

Filed under: Hazlehurst |

The penultimate campaign finance reports are trickling in – and, as always, they make interesting reading. There are some new players in the game, and some older ones that have had to switch horses in midstream.

The stalwarts of the medical marijuana industry had put their money into “Smokin’ Tom” Gallagher’s campaign, but he abruptly dropped out, throwing his support to Keith King.  Given that literally all of Gallagher’s campaign contributions came from the industry it was a curious decision. King is not exactly the most marijuana friendly candidate in the race, and was not among those endorsed by the Colorado Springs Medical Cannabis Council. Yet maybe King isn’t as MMJ unfriendly as we may suppose. Here’s the email announcing their press conference of March 16.

“Keith King and Tom Gallagher, candidates for City Council District 3, will hold a joint press conference Saturday, March 16, at 11:00 a.m. on the west steps of City Hall.  They have major news to share.  Please join them.”

See the hidden message? A clue: eliminate the phrase “press conference” and it all becomes clear!!

MMJ money quickly flowed to District 4 candidate Dennis Moore, who reported $3,000 in contributions from businesses and individuals connected with the industry.

Cloud Peak Energy Employee PAC contributed to four different candidates. Andres Pico, Don Knight and Bernie Herpin picked up $250 each, while Dennis Moore got $1,000.

According to the company’s website, “Cloud Peak Energy is headquartered in Wyoming and is one of the largest U.S. coal producers and the only pure-play Powder River Basin (PRB) coal company. Cloud Peak Energy specializes in the production of low sulfur, subbituminous coal. The company owns and operates three surface coal mines in the PRB, the lowest cost major coal producing region in the nation. The Antelope and Cordero Rojo mines are located in Wyoming and the Spring Creek Mine is located near Decker, Montana. Cloud Peak Energy also owns rights to substantial undeveloped coal and complimentary surface assets in the Northern PRB, further building the company’s long-term position to serve Asian export and domestic customers.”

Herpin also received $500 from Union Pacific Railroad.

From the company’s website:

“Union Pacific Railroad’s coal team is committed to providing coal transportation to the utility, industrial and export markets. Every year, we ship more than 200 million tons of coal from mines in the Southern Powder River Basin, Utah, Colorado, Southern Wyoming and Southern Illinois.”

It’s interesting to see the coal industry step forward to protect its interests. Closing Drake, Nixon or both wouldn’t be good for either Cloud Peak or Union Pacific, so the only puzzling thing about their involvement is that it came so late in the game. Ballots were mailed out in early March, so by the time Cloud and UP made their contributions as many as 60 percent of the ballots may have already been returned.

But who knows? If the races are close and turnout is low, a few dozen votes might make all the difference.

An historical note: back in the 1970s, retired General Ken Curtis ran for a city council seat. He lost by one vote. For years afterwards, Curtis once told me “Friends would come up to me and say, ‘Ken, I’m so sorry! I didn’t bother to vote, because I was sure that you’d win.’”

So if you haven’t voted yet, you know what to do.