As the West Virginia mine disaster cost at least 25 lives this week, it has highlighted “why we need campaign finance laws and why recent moves by the U.S. Supreme Court to weaken them are so dangerous,” wrote Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne. He noted that Don Blankenship, the chief executive of mine owner Massey Energy, challenges regulations at every turn and famously “spent $3 million to help elect a justice to the West Virginia Supreme Court who then twice provided the key vote that set aside a $50 million jury verdict against Massey Energy.” The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 last year that “judges must disqualify themselves in cases involving litigants from whom they received large campaign contributions,” Dionne wrote. He continued: “Too often, regulations are discussed in the abstract as a ‘burden’ on companies that expend substantial sums to resist them. Only after disasters such as this one do we remember that regulations exist for a reason, that their enforcement can, literally, be a matter of life and death.”
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