Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell last month blocked a measure that would have used Treasury Department funds marked for Appalachian development to help pay for coal miners’ health care and pensions in his home state of Kentucky.
But just a few months earlier, McConnell successfully steered near-identical Treasury funds for Appalachia to bankroll a Kentucky aluminum plant connected to an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Democrats on Capitol Hill have raised concerns for months about McConnell’s connection to the aluminum plant. It’s one of several reasons why McConnell’s political opponents have tried to stick him with the nickname “Moscow Mitch.” But what’s gone largely unnoticed as the sobriquet has become a social media trending topic is how McConnell worked to keep money out of coal miners’ hands—even as he maneuvered to steer federal funds to the Russian-linked plant.
The scrutiny started in January, when McConnell voted to lift sanctions on Rusal, a Russian aluminum company formerly headed by Putin ally Oleg Deripaska, despite several of his Republican colleagues defecting and voting no. Rusal’s de-listing caused an uproar among Democrats on Capitol Hill who viewed the deal the Treasury Department put together with Rusal as too lenient.
Then, in April, the focus turned to McConnell. Just days after the Treasury Department announced the official de-listing of Rusal, the company announced a $200 million investment in the Braidy Industries aluminum plant in the northeastern part of Kentucky. Democrats raised questions about how much McConnell knew about Rusal’s investment plan before he voted for sanctions relief. Rusal is the only outside investor in the plant.
In a statement to The Daily Beast, a Braidy Industries spokesperson said the company has never lobbied members of Congress on sanctions issues and began working with law firm Akin Gump in May 2019 for “general government relations representation.” The spokesperson also said no employee or director of the company has ever spoken to McConnell about Rusal.
But McConnell’s connection to the Rusal-Braidy aluminum plant is deeper than previously understood. At the same time Rusal was lobbying the Trump administration to get off the U.S. sanctions list, McConnell was advocating for federal funds to be diverted to help with construction of the Braidy plant in Kentucky.
Since 2016 the federal government has given states in Appalachia millions of dollars from the Treasury Department to help clean up and reform abandoned coal mining land, and to assist in economic and community development in those areas. McConnell and other Kentucky lawmakers, including Rep. Harold Rogers (R-KY), have advocated that the state continue to receive that federal funding given the impact of coal companies’ bankruptcies. Two companies, EastPark Industrial and Ashland Alliance, applied for $7 million from the pot of federal money from the Kentucky state government in November 2017 for general sewer and road repair on 204 acres of land.
In October 2018, McConnell, Rogers, and Kentucky officials announced that EastPark and Ashland would get $4 million. Then, in March 2019, the applicants confirmed that the $4 million would not go to funding general repairs but would instead go prepping for construction on the aluminum plant.
“Ashland Alliance and EastPark will only be applying the $4 million to the Braidy Site preparation,” wrote Ashland Alliance president Tim Gibbs in an email from March 2019 reviewed by The Daily Beast. “The $4 million in AML funds will enable Braidy to complete the $14 million total investment to stabilize the site for high precision manufacturing.”
Moscow Mitch is every bit as big of a traitor to the United States as is The Great Deceiver.
OBAMA is not a foreign born, brown skinned, anti war socialist who gives away health care. YOU'RE THINKING OF JESUS.
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