Where Facts And Controversy In The News Come Together In Truth

Friday, April 6, 2012

Fed Source Says US Senator Manchin Falsified 2010 Massey Jet Trip

Was Massey Corporate Jet Already In Florida At Time Of UBB Mine Disaster?... by Jack Swint

According to a federal source close to the Manchin probe, the investigation is still ongoing and expanding to include allegations that the former governor and his staff misstated the truth about his April 2010 use of Massey Energy’s corporate jet after the deadly explosion at the Upper Big Branch (UBB) Coal Mine. In fact, our source said investigators are looking into reports that both the jet and two Massey executives were in Florida before the UBB disaster while Manchin, his wife and security detail were on vacation there. "I cant confirm nor deny that one of the 2 Massey Energy people was Don Blankenship" ...Inside source.

If you recall, back in April 2010, the governor and his staff first tried to hide the fact that Massey Energy even provided the governor a ride on its corporate Gulfstream Jet. In fact, it took the media prodding to get them to reluctantly admit it. Now, investigators are reportedly looking into what occurred before, during and after the governor used the jet to fly from Florida to WV. The official version is that Massey sent the jet from its corporate base hub in Virginia down to Miami, picked up the former governor and flew him to Charleston West Virginia. Then the jet returned to Virginia. At least one inside source says that information is not accurate. If it turns out to be true that the jet was already in Florida, it could shed a new light on how and why Massey Energy was so quick to provide Manchin their plane and why the governor did not want anyone to know it.

To Many Excuses

Manchin claims he didn't use the state owned Beechcraft King Air because the airplane wasn’t available at the time. And it wasn't clear why he didn’t just charter a private plane or fly on a commercial airline. But, Manchin assured everyone that his attorney said it was legal and that his office would reimburse Massey for the cost of the flight. They didn't even do that correctly.

This new turn of events could finally explain why the governor’s office tried to conceal using the plane at first, and also refused numerous media requests in late 2010 to provide documentation showing that Massey was reimbursed for the flight. The governor’s staff repeatedly said that they had not received an invoice from the coal company. Which turned out to be untrue too. In December 2010, we contacted Massey Energy VP and Chief Financial Officer Eric Tolbert, he told this author that his office had invoiced the state in June 2010. But, only for the fuel used on the flight, not the total operational costs, and that payment had promptly been received from the state. When asked the dollar amount of the invoice he hesitated and said, “You need to ask the governor’s office for that.”

Tolbert stated that he was instructed to send the invoice directly to Manchin's then attorney Jonathon Deem, who also reportedly said it was legal for Manchin to use Massey’s Jet for the trip. Proper channels would have been to send the bill straight to the WV Auditor. After speaking with Tolbert, we contacted the State Auditor and asked for copies of the documents from their office. This time, Communication Director Justin Southern contacted us and said they had found the payment information. State records show the $3,045.57 check was processed and noted as, "Use of Massey Aircraft 4/5/10 To Transport The Governor From Miami To Chas Due To The UBB Mine Explosion."

Massey did only bill the governor for the fuel used, 846 gallons ($3,045.57), not the actual cost. That figure is far less than the estimated $15,300.00 price tag we obtained from a national corporation that has the same model Gulfstream Jet. Their calculation is based on a $4,500 an hour to operate and maintain the plane using the same 3.5 hour roundtrip  flight course the Massey Jet reportedly took from Virginia to Miami Florida, then to WV and back to Virginia. Which is approx 1,962 nautical miles. Note: The hourly cost includes two pilots required by the FAA, fuel, airframe maintenance, labor and parts, engine restoration and miscellaneous costs. This is the standard calculation for the cost operation of every private or corporate airplane.

If you believe Manchin's events of the story, then Massey took a loss of approximately $12,000 because of the additional costs they had to absorb due to the total operational costs outside of the jet fuel. And, let's be honest, it would cost more than $3,046.57 to fly a private Gulfstream jet from VA to FL to WV and back to VA.

Why Did Manchin First Try Covering Up Use Of Jet?

Several points come to mind. One, Manchin has always tried to play down any type of alliance or social connection with Don Blankenship and or Massey Energy. In fact, a lot of people think the men do not like each other. Then there are the problems that could surface if Manchin and Blankenship were actually seen and or photographed together while the governor (now US Senator) was on vacation. This could bring back haunting memories of the same Don Blankenship treating then WV Supreme Court Judge Spike Maynard to an all-expenses paid trip together in the French Riviera. (Pictured to the left.)

Were Any Laws Violated?

The HOBBS ACT?  A federal law, that in laymen’s terms basically says that if a government official acquires something through his position in government that he would not have otherwise received if he did not hold the position. So, did Manchin violate this law?  Probably, if they can show that Massey only flew Manchin to WV on their private jet because he was the governor, not Joe Manchin the carpet salesman. It’s doubtful they would do the same for you or me. And, then there is the suspiciously low cost of the invoice ($3,046.57) since Massey only billed the state for the cost of fuel, not the actual cost for the flight.

Industry standards should have figured an hourly rate as stated above. Which would have cost $15,000. Did Massey only charge for the fuel cost because this was the governor? Doing it is as a gesture and or favor, may still be a violation of law since Manchin was a state official. Would Massey have done the same for Manchin if he wasn’t governor? Would they do it for you and me?

In Closing

Our source says that the investigation of US Senator Joe Manchin is not closed. And, the feds have interviewed both Manchin and his former chief of staff Larry Puccio at least twice now. Their focus has expanded to include these new accusations that Manchin and others attempted to cover up specifics before, during and after the governor’s use of Massey Energy's corporate jet in April 2010.

From the very beginning, Manchin and his staff attempted to hide even using the jet, it took the media pushing them into a corner to even get a reluctant confirmation. Then in December 2010, his staff tried to keep the media from obtaining information on the cost of the flight by repeatedly saying they hadn't received an invoice from Massey. That was untrue too. Massey Energies Chief Financial Officer told us that they invoiced the governors’ office in June 2010 and it was paid shortly after.

All of the circumstances surrounding the former governors use of Massey's corporate jet has been cloaked with deceit. What has Manchin been trying to hide from the public and federal investigators?

Whether or not the jet and or Blankenship were in Florida with the governor at the time of the UBB mine disaster is a question for federal authorities. Either way, the use of the plane to fly the governor back to WV is very shady at the least and is hopefully apart of their probe into his ongoing investigation. It’s clear that he was trying to hide something from the minute he stepped on that plane.

Here Is One Last Question….

How did Massey Energy and or Don Blankenship even know the governor was having difficulty getting back to WV anyway?? Did Manchin call him? Did Massey/Blankenship offer the ride while talking to him about the explosion?; or was the plane already there?

End Of Story....

Jack Swint-Publisher
West Virginia News
Twitter:  @WVNewsOnline
LinkedIn: Jack Swint


Anonymous said...

Your last paragraph raises a really good point...."How did Massey Energy and or Don Blankenship even know the governor was having difficulty getting back to WV anyway?? Did Manchin call him?

Did Massey/Blankenship just call the governor out of the blue and ask if he needed a ride home from Florida; or was the plane already there?"

Anonymous said...

This WV News has been reported the dirt on Joe Manchin for several years now. When is someone gonna wake up and investigate Manchin for what he is.

Anonymous said...

Its doubtful the feds will want to pursue this because it all occurred during a tragic time at UBB. If Joe had been going to a football game, that would be different.

Anonymous said...

I would think the timing of the flight would be cause for great interest in the details surrounding the flight. WV seems to favor and protect the coal industry at any cost to the people of WV. The relationship between the Gov.'s office and such a gross violator of safety standards should be of great interest to all of us.

Anonymous said...

Well lets see how this plays out. If Massey can keep "fake" safety records to throw off inspectors, can they keep fake flight logs to? Or can you even get a hold of them since they sold out the company?

And no, ya cant fly a medium size corporate jet 1900 naud miles for $3,000. You have to factor in all the cost of operating and maintaining the plane. Someone (Massey) has to pay the difference.

Anonymous said...

I agree, timing is everything. Keep in mind, this is "TEFLON JOE!" He has managed to dodge the bullet every time.

But, then again, if anyone remembers Charlestons former mayor and county prosecutor Mike Roark back in the 80's, it took the feds years to get him too. In fact, they first said that they closed that investigation with no charges. All the time behind the scenes he was cutting a deal to plead guilty.

Anonymous said...

Heres a good read on Joe Manchin


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