The Axis of Avarice

by Cesco Estep

There is an unholy three-way alliance in West Virginia that threatens our very way of life. It began many years ago with an unspoken bargain between the local “mainstream” media and the corporations who gain the most from our abundant natural resources. Together they have undermined the political system to the point where the health,  safety, and welfare of the citizens of Appalachia are rarely even considered by the state’s main regulatory agencies if enforcement even remotely involves our extraction industries.  One of the earliest examples of the level of collusion by State lawmakers was when one West Virginia governor ordered his state militia to destroy the printing presses of certain newspaper editors who dared criticize his pandering to powerful robber baron coal owners. It has been lost to all but the most astute state historians that during that same period Governor Hatfield never so much as even blinked at Charleston’s “mainstream” newspapers. He obviously felt that unlike the newsprint from the labor press, Charleston’s “mainstream” media had been reporting the “right stuff” all along. Hatfield and his legislature were criticized by Congress, but in the end the sovereignty of the State of West Virginia ruled the day, and the historic Paint Creek strike was broken without giving in to the number 1 complaint by strikers: the removal of the brutal mine guard system. Eventually some fifty thousand miners and their families were thrown out of their homes across the Kanawha Field by the coal owner’s union, replaced mostly by immigrants from all over the world.

While these days the deal between the our press and our political leaders over how to go about selling out the rights of citizens to the extraction industries is not quite as overt as it used to be, the more subtle modern alliance between the two has essentially undercut any natural competition between the two political parties which have been producing most of our lawmakers. The incentive for this long-lived corporate-driven media/ political confederacy has always been money, and I mean big money.  Money so big that even some of the state’s once most powerful trade unions have been compromised and all but brought to their knees. The secret syndicate formed by the extraction industry corporations to control the political will and dictate what the media reports is truly an Axis of Avarice.

Despite the incessant yet subtle propaganda that our local news organizations pump out, more and more West Virginians are rejecting the false paradigm that voting for “the lesser of two evils” is necessary. No longer is the thought of putting the alternative into office as nearly as frightening as it used to be, because folks sense that both essentially are driven by the same evil. There is much evidence that voters have begun rejecting outright the two party system, which, considering the lack of choice that those two parties have been offering, makes a lot of sense. Last general election’s turnout indicates that many, if not most, had been duped into boycotting their own right to vote!  If, indeed, that’s true, then most of the blame for that boycott is on West Virginia’s mainstream media.

Persuading voters to opt out of their duty to participate in our democracy on election day is one of the main strategies of the Axis of Avarice. For around a century the not so subtle persuasion of cash-on-the-barrelhead advertising has turned our local mainstream media into a virtual propaganda tool of the extraction industries. If you doubt it then consider this: It is beyond curious how West Virginia’s major news sources have collectively avoided letting the public know the real results of  our last statewide Special Election. The dirty little secret they don’t want you to realize is that Earl Ray Tomblin was put into office by a paltry twelve percent (12%!!) of all registered WV voters. Instead of reporting the incumbent’s failure to inspire even his own base as a shocking fact,  just last year the media collectively chose to misrepresent our last gubernatorial election as “exciting” by falsely reporting that it was a close race.  Had challenger Bill Maloney won by the same margin, then Mountain Party challenger Dr. Bob Henry Baber, would have been portrayed as a “spoiler” throughout the state and likely beyond. But the truth is that there’s no way that Baber could have been a “spoiler” for either of his two opponents because it really wasn’t a close race at all! Conspicuously unreported by allmedia outlets is the shocking fact that a SEVENTY-FIVE PERCENT of all voters essentially chose to vote for “NONE OF THE ABOVE! That, friends and neighbors, is beyond simple voter apathy. It is proof of a silent conspiracy.

Unfortunately, the lion’s share of West Virginia voters had once again been scammed into thinking that there were only two candidates in the race, despite the fact that there has long been THREE major parties in West Virginia.

To most everyone who ever had bothered to register it was obvious that between the incumbent Democrat and his Republican challenger there wasn’t enough difference to bother to go to the polls on election day. Despite complete media saturation (and thanks to the millions-upon-millions thrown into full-blitz advertising by both corporate camps,) West Virginia voters realized the lack of a clear difference between what Tomblin and Maloney represent. Yet due to the blackout by stations and newspapers with whom their advertising dollars were focused, most registered voters to this day aren’t aware that the Mountain Party exists, much less that its platform allows only nominees who aren’t corporate sellouts.

In elections over the last dozen years voters have been purposely misled by the media’s push-polling to think that there are only two major political parties in West Virginia. Because of the pernicious industry-wide media blackout in corporate biased and corporate driven surveys year after year, voters go to the polls thinking that the two party system is broken. Worse yet, there is solid evidence indicating that voters actively choose not to participate because of the negative ads the two corporate-sponsored candidates run about each other, primarily because they really don’t have much positive to convey about themselves.  It’s through that cynical secret system that the media has long been paid to push the lie that there is no third party grassroots solution.

Although it’s been widely ignored by the media, the dismal turnout for the last statewide primary (again, the Special Election of October 2011),  signaled a major tipping point. If, as the media would like us to believe, corporate advertising truly controls who wins elections, then it’s ONLY because that campaign cash has caused an industry wide local corporate media blackout of the facts regarding the growing influence of the Mountain Party. Mountain Party candidates are regularly kept out of the news and off the editorial pages because they staunchly refuse to accept corporate campaign contributions. Honest candidates with honest solutions are effectively blocked from addressing the public primarily because it is impossible for them to raise huge amounts of campaign financing without compromising their stance on major positions.

The silent conspiracy of blacklisting candidates for cash for over a decade is the only adequate explanation for the resultant boycott by voters last election day.

Grassroots campaigning across our rural mountain state on five and ten dollar contributions is arduous, but our gubernatorial nominees have been doing it for over a decade.  It is no mall coincidence that the lack of decent alternative telecommunications makes it even more so. Thanks to the political tentacle of the Axis, the Manchin/Tomblin syndicate essentially wasted $24 million in federal stimulus on gold-plated internet routers, most of which will sit un-utilized in their unopened shipping cartons until they’re obsolete. Last primary, enough low information voters (a.k.a. pissed off Democrats) turned out to select Keith Judd, a Texarkana prison inmate over Obama because Manchin and Tomblin had, through their well-greased media, successfully scapegoated the President for what their syndicate had been doing to us for years.

In the run-up to the last gubernatorial election, most potential voters believed that they could choose only the incumbent, whose platform was “Lower Taxes, More Jobs“,  or his challenger, whose platform was essentially, “More Jobs, Lower Taxes“.  Why is it both nominees are essentially running on the same plank as last year? Apparently both camps want us to swallow that Earl Ray’s year-long term in office somehow magically changed the way voters feel about their own nominee.

How can the press maintain credibility while acting as if it’s natural for two corporate tools really is a competition between “two major parties”? How can the press ignore the fact both camps apparently believe that the repeat of the same lower voter turnout will be an advantage for their own candidate while running against the same opponent? It is hard to fathom how any journalist worth his salt could swallow that either Maloney or Raese are anything more than high-paid strawman candidates. Perhaps most noticeable is how no one in the mainstream media ever gets around to pointing out how ludicrous the whole “Punch ‘N Judy” theme is between the Manchin, Raese, Tomblin and Maloney. All that lucre for “campaign advertising” is obviously money well spent. It’s essentially hush money.

Choosing not to report the facts is one thing. Leaving out information to keep folks from figuring out exactly why only 12 percent of all voters wanted Earl Ray Tomblin to continue to govern and even fewer chose Maloney is a direct threat to the mainstream media’s economy. Even the brightest corporate-employed journalists never dare wonder out loud why there was such a low turnout despite the fact that West Virginia has maintained the highest voter registration rate per capita for years. None dare publicly speculate why so few participated despite soaring voter registration rates previous to Tomblin’s Special Election. What I’m getting at is that if folks had enough of the truth and were able to weigh all those factors, they’d begin to understand the real reason why so many WV voters chose to boycott the last Special Election.

The misconception that there was no reason to vote is a ruse deftly propagated by the

Major evidence of the media repeatedly blocking out Mountain Party candidates is found in the political polling contracted and subsequently published by major newspapers in the state. As of this date, the most recent example was in the Charleston Daily Mail.

newsprint push polls. This year the WV Broadcaster’s Association will do its level best to keep the existence of a third party solution from the general public by barring the Mountain Party candidate from publicly debating Earl Ray Tomblin and Bill Maloney.

Despite the media’s concerted efforts, those of us who are politically astute do know that the Mountain Party of West Virginia exists, and recall that it had a gubernatorial candidate on the 2011 ballot. The fact that Dr. Bob Henry Profiteers Push Polled PropagandaBaber did not inspire people to come out to vote was basically because he couldn’t afford to buy access to the public through West Virginia’s avarice-driven media. Like all Mountain Party candidates, Baber rightfully shunned all corporate backing, so the media dutifully kept his name off their political polls and blocked him from the statewide TV broadcast of what was advertised as a gubernatorial “debate”. Note that I purposely placed quotes around the word because it was more of a snoozefest due to the lack of integrity presented by the “journalists” who paid to deliver their softball questions while acting as if it all was something more than a political ad for the syndicate’s corporate agenda.

To the credit of West Virginia voters and despite the media blackout, Baber received well over three times as many votes as there were registered Mountain Party members. At the same time, Earl Ray Tomblin received far fewer than than 1/6 of his “base” of 643,859 registered Democrat voters. The incumbent inspired only 102,234 voters out of 1,215,213 all registered. Big Bill Maloney lost because he failed to inspire 251,408 of his fellow Republicans to go to the polls for him. He received 99,013 votes despite the fact that there were 350,421 registered WV Republicans. How could both candidates have possibly been so dreadfully uninspiring even to their own “base”? And just why does the mainstream media choose to ignore each candidate’s obvious failure to garner votes?

Money.

According to final campaign finance reports filed with the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office, incumbent Tomblin spent $4,156,909.8 and Maloney spent $3,315,593.63. Incumbent Tomblin was able to completely finance his campaign through contributions, which is a LOT of money, especially considering that so many people in West Virginia are so poor. Most of it was funneled from the extraction industry’s corporate coffers directly into the mainstream media’s corporate coffers, with relatively little trickling down to local economies. Meanwhile, in West Virginia’s coal patch, where Earl Ray Tomblin is from, folks are so still poor that the children are known to suffer at a far higher rate than the rest of the State. One of Tomblin’s legacies as Senate President is that West Virginia’s kids continually suffered from poverty growing steadily at a higher rate than the rest of the U.S.,  so his “lower taxes – more jobs” campaign pledge rings hollow, even to his “base”.

Fortunately, for tools like Tomblin, Maloney, Manchin, Raese, and their international syndicate of ultra wealthy backers, the State of West Virginia is abundantly resource-rich, which is the only justification for shoveling millions upon millions of cash at our media. Considering West Virginia’s long, sordid history of graft and corruption by industry shills of both major Parties, it is no small coincidence that our State does not track the source of campaign contributors in the same way that other states do for their citizens. However, according to data compiled by the National Institute on Money in State Politics, the largest sectors to contribute to Tomblin’s 2011 campaign were lawyers and lobbyists, followed by mining interests. Maloney, a gas industry advocate who earned his fortune in the extraction industries, actually loaned his own campaign $2,450,000, or 74 percent of his total campaign expenditure. Unreported and untracked by our Secretary of State is how he’ll retire that earlier campaign debt to himself. It’s a pretty safe bet that Maloney will repay himself from the money he raises from “outside interests” this go-round for whatever deal he cut prior to his first run with the Koch Brothers. In Raese’s case spending campaign cash on advertising could be compared to the same way that folks move their loose change from one pocket to another, since he’s a multimillionaire media mogul. Joe Manchin’s fortunes were made from his coal and gas brokerage firm during his entire political career, assuring his political backers that his deadly personal policy of “Retail Government” will remain in place and insuring that his campaigns will be well financed by the extraction industries -for as long as he can stay out of jail.

It may strike some folks as odd that West Virginia’s Republican Party chose to run the same candidate who just last year lost to Earl Ray. It really only makes sense as long as the press continues to support the ridiculous notion that it was a close race. One might have assumed that since Governor Tomblin and former Governor Joe Manchin officially proved that they were “Friends of Coal Operators” by suing the EPA (for basically trying to protect citizens from radical mining practices) that Maloney, a gas industry man, might have been persuaded to use the lawsuit as a political bludgeon, since the surface mining industry has displaced so many deep miners. Besides, NON-political polls have strongly indicated that most West Virginians want MORE regulation, oversight, and enforcement over industrial excesses, not less. Yet Tomblin’s main challenger remains silent and the media even more silent (if that’s possible).

The disconnect between what the two major candidates are touting and what voters really want (and the state needs) is evidence of corporate-driven media spin, considering how that West Virginia’s major newsgroups avoid connecting the most obvious needs of citizens to the complete lack of concern by the major party candidates. It is solid proof of a conspiracy when the major newsgroups essentially silence Mountain Party candidates.

Neither West Virginia’s mainstream media nor Bill Maloney has ever gotten around to mentioning that while Tomblin was Senate President both he and Joe Manchin actually ran more small business out of West Virginia than any other state. The fact that the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce have endorsed both Manchin and Tomlin every time they’ve run lately isn’t surprising given the Chamber’s clandestine yet transparent history of endorsing only multinational anti-union shills. But if West Virginia is as “conservative” as our mainstream media’s political polling would have us all believe, then Tomblin’s dismal record certainly should have helped Maloney inspire far more than ten percent of West Virginia’s entire electorate. Although Maloney desperately keeps trying to run on a more conservative platform than Tomblin, both he and the incumbent spent millions upon millions to advertise how conservative they are. During Maloney’s last campaign he ran ads claiming that Tomblin is “no friend of coal” which didn’t inspire voters mainly because everyone knew that it was an utterly ridiculous claim. Unreported by the mainstream media was the fact that instead of attending the recent Democratic Convention, Tomblin attended a fundraiser sponsored by the new head of the West Virginia Coal Association, James Laurita, Jr., who reportedly has supported only the Republican party and a few select Democrats. So why would Maloney, a shrewd businessman,  keep advertising that Tomblin was no “Friend of Coal” way unless he was propped up to lose in the first place?

Despite having an extensive gas industry background, Bill Maloney has apparently chosen to never mention publicly why Tomblin’s Marcellus “dirty bomb” bill is responsible for so many job losses in the coal patch. More than anything else Tomblin has done to knock King Coal off the throne, the incumbent’s “anything goes” Marcellus bill that Tim Manchin helped wheedle through the legislature caused the price of gas to tumble to the point where coal can’t possibly continue to compete as an electricity source. Despite the blinders by the media, progressive voters know why Earl Ray, Joe Manchin and their Republicrat campaign has desperately been shifting the blame onto Obama by endlessly flogging their phony “war on coal” meme. Their culpability for their team effort to push the low standard regulations over hydrofracking in West Virginia is never mentioned by the mainstream media because it’s paid lots and lots of money to advertise for them. So that outcry about Obama’s “war on coal” all must be true, right?

Like the ridiculous “Clean Coal” campaign ads that ran over the last two years, what all the two corporate candidate’s feckless advertising really buys is silence. It’s essentially why the mainstream media will never reveal how Tomblin, Manchin, Raese and Maloney are all the same cadre of high-stakes grifters working the same racket from different angles.

Try wrapping your mind around it this way. Owning both jockeys insures that you’ll never lose in a two-horse race. In West Virginia’s gubernatorial two-party race the multinational corporatists (known as “ALEC“) not only own both jockeys, they’ve bought both political stables –lock, stock, and barrel.  ALEC’s biggest problem in our Great State is that there are THREE horses in every gubernatorial race. Because the Mountain Party owns its own stables, it is impossible for ALEC to own all of the jockeys. So the next best thing isn’t to board up starting gate #3, but rather to bar the Mountain Party entry from the track altogether. In West Virginia, ALEC operatives have accomplished it by indirectly taking control of the State’s media. Anyone even remotely familiar with the true history of West Virginia realizes that West Virginia’s major media was compromised long ago. It has always been instrumental in suppressing third party politicians who dared stand up for the people against excesses from what was once commonly called the robberbaron industries.

If any active politician today knows the true story of West Virginia’s history of suppressing grassroots party candidates it is Jesse Johnson of the Mountain Party. Besides tostate to town hall meetings as well as lectures all across the U.S. with elder statesman Ken Hechler for the last several years,

Jesse has run for Governor on the Mountain Party ticket twice before,  in 2004 and 2008. As a result, the corporate heads of West Virginia’s major media can’t help but understand Johnson’s stance on most major issues, especially the one that will most effect their own bottom line: campaign finance reform. They, more than anyone understand that true reform most likely would mean a major cut in their own income. If campaigns are no longer able to buy media silence through the giant campaign budgets that corporate-driven candidates spend on mindless attack ads engineered to make it look like there might be a difference between their two horses would immediately dry up. That’s why blacklisting Jesse Johnson’s campaign from fair and balanced West Virginia news coverage is basically all about the money. For the record, Johnson has gotten far better coverage outside of West Virginia in all three of his previous campaigns for office.

Despite what our local media wants you to believe, the Mountain Party is one of only three parties legally recognized by the Great of West Virginia. This feisty grassroots organization has grown in popularity because it has been running solid gubernatorial candidates for well over a decade. It’s the only way that third-party candidates can maintain the same legal right to be on the ballot as the two corporate-owned parties without getting literally thousands of voter’s signatures on a petition prior to every primary.

At the same time our statewide mainstream press has downplayed the Mountain Party as a news item and summarily ignored its press releases, it regularly features fringe groups who make headlines by merely calling themselves a “Party”-when under state law, they’re not. The media’s coverage of such groups reveals its bias by treating them as political parties despite having never mustered enough voters in consecutive races to gain true party status here. Propped up by the media and financed by multinational corporations, wittingly or not, the members of these fringe organizations end up as little more than tools in a scam to trick the public into believing that their extremist views have far more political clout than they have followers.  In West Virginia, where this type of three-way racket has been going on since the Mine Wars around a century ago,  lawmakers nonetheless continue to choose to use all the hoopla trumped up by the media as political cover to justify being rewarded by lobbyists for their legislative favors. The appearance of a powerful coalition helps politicians dodge public scrutiny over self-serving and destructive lawmaking. Such obvious backroom deals can be made because in West Virginia the corporate sponsored politicians and their lobbyist pals have long understood that they could rely on the same well-greased press that propped them up in the first place.

Cesco Estep is the pen name of a Charleston resident who wishes to remind readers of a certain political activist that was murdered in his own home by order of Governor William E. Glasscock of the Great State of West Virginia. Estep’s house was riddled with bullets for aiding strikers by letting them camp on his property during a lockout.  On the night of February 7, 1913, the bloody Bull Moose Special, manned by Kanawha County Sheriff’s deputies and mine guards rolled up Paint Creek, then, according to congressional testimony, slowed down as it approached Holly Grove to strafe miners in their tents with Gatling guns mounted on an armored rail car. The Bull Moose Special had been armored for the specific purpose of transporting scab labor, and the coal operator was tired of having his scabs intimidated as they were being transported through Holly Grove.

Although Quin Morton, the coal operator who had requested the action, and Kanawha County Sheriff Bonner Hill, who was in command of the operation, were both on board the train that night, neither were convicted because at the time they were under protective orders from the West Virginia Governor.

Mr. Estep died in his own bed from a fifty caliber Gatling gun wound to his face.

Never forget the many brave men, women and children who were forced to revolt against the government of the State of West Virginia in 1921. Today’s politicians are compelled to destroy historic Blair Mountain rather than to preserve it,  for the same reasons that they’ve all but eliminated teaching in our schools the true reasons behind that uprising. Although the controversial mountaintop removal permit at Spruce Fork includes major portions of Blair Mountain, that fact is never included by mainstream journalists when they write about the lawsuit that former governor Manchin filed against the EPA for placing a moratorium on destroying its watershed. Blair Mountain stands as a solitary symbol of the dangerous amount of control outside extraction industries exert over our nation’s political system as well as our local media.

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