American Bridge Statement On Trump’s Nomination Of Wilbur Ross As Commerce Secretary

Erratic, irresponsible, and ruthlessly self-interested, Donald Trump has appropriately selected billionaire coal investor Wilbur Ross — known for running the Sago Mine where 12 miners tragically died, despite 270 safety violations over the two years leading up to the disaster — to be his Secretary of Commerce.

American Bridge President Jessica Mackler issued the following statement on Trump’s nomination of his close friend Wilbur Ross, a billionaire coal investor and banker who’s helped Trump avoid personal bankruptcies, as Secretary of Commerce:

“Trump’s pick of billionaire banker and coal investor Wilbur Ross as his Commerce Secretary is the surest sign to date that President-elect Trump intends to continue what he’s done his entire life: enrich himself above all else, no matter who gets hurt in the process.

“Trump keeps making empty promises to cut ties to his unprecedented business conflicts of interests. But Wilbur Ross has over the years directly helped Trump restructure his business holdings and avoid personal bankruptcies, so he could profit while he stiffing fellow investors, employees, and contractors.

“In nominating Ross, Trump rewards a big-donor and friend; empowers a billionaire investor to help billionaire investors; and gains an ally in government who’ll help him find a way to profit off the presidency, even if Trump manages to tank the economy with massive tax cuts for the wealthy few. It’s a big-time win for Trump, but Wilbur Ross as Secretary of Commerce is a real threat to the future of America’s working families.”

 

Background

Trump was Beholden To Coal Investor Wilbur Ross

Wilbur Ross’s Company Played A Role In The Restructuring Efforts Of Various Donald Trump Holdings

Coal Investor Wilbur Ross, Who Purchased Bankrupt Coal Companies, Played A Role In Restructuring Various Donald Trump Holdings. According to The State Journal-Register, “A group of creditors have offered $255 million to purchase Horizon Natural Resources’ assets, including Turris Coal Co., out of bankruptcy. A company formed by New York restructuring whiz Wilbur Ross and four other individuals – placed the bid. […] His company, W.L. Ross & Co., played a role in such big-name restructuring efforts as Revlon, Orion Pictures, Texaco, Trans World Airlines, various Donald Trump holdings and Zenith Corp. Ross’s other coal investments include Anker Coal in West Virginia. Horizon filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2002, roughly six months after emerging from another bankruptcy case.” [State Journal-Register, 6/22/04]

Ross Defended Trump, Pledged To Support Him

March 2016: Wilbur Ross Pledged To Support Donald Trump For President,  Defended Trump Against Critics. According to Bloomberg, “Billionaire investor Wilbur Ross would support Donald Trump if he becomes the Republican Party’s nominee for president, saying the frontrunner in the race will become ‘more presidential’ if he wins the nomination. ‘There will be a new Donald Trump if he gets the nomination,’ Ross said Wednesday in a Bloomberg Television interview. ‘That new Donald Trump will be a lot more presidential than the Donald Trump we’ve been seeing. The characterization of himself he’s been presenting has been what he felt was needed to stir up the enthusiasm.’ Ross, 78, said ‘of course’ he would support the billionaire real estate mogul, including financially, if Trump becomes the party’s nominee. Ross, who supported and donated to Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential election, said the former Massachusetts governor and private equity executive was wrong last week to come out strongly against Trump in a speech and series of public interviews. ‘It was disappointing and inappropriate,’ Ross said. ‘Someone who’s been the former candidate of a party shouldn’t be promoting party divisiveness. It’s a terrible thing from a political point of view.’” [Bloomberg, 3/9/16]

2006: 12 Coal Miners Died After Ross Refused To Address Repeated Mine Safety Violations At His Sago Mine

Wilbur Ross’ International Coal Group, Took Over The Sago Mine Which For “For Its Size, May Have Been The Most Dangerous Coal Mine In America.” According to ABC News, “Wilbur Ross, a socially prominent businessman with homes on Fifth Avenue, in the Hamptons and Palm Beach, bears the ultimate responsibility for the Sago mine. His company, the International Coal Group, of which he is the chairman and principal owner, took over the mine in West Virginia just a few months ago. ‘Oh my God. It’s the worst week of my entire life,’ he told ABC News. In the business world, Ross is known as a shrewd investor who buys companies in trouble. Two years ago, he made his move into the coal industry and recently rescued the tiny Sago mine that had been in bankruptcy for two years. Although Ross bought into a mine that, for its size, may have been the most dangerous coal mine in America, he maintained that it met industry standards. ‘I believe that the mine was fundamentally safe,’ he said.” [ABC News, 1/5/05]

2004: Ross’s Sago Mine Received 16 Of The Most Serious Violations In 2004, But Ross Did Not Shut Down The Mine. According to ABC News, “But based on Department of Labor records that were reviewed by ‘Primetime,’ the Sago mine received 16 citations last year for the most serious violations, called unwarranted failures, issued in the industry. ‘That’s normally issued to mine operators that basically thumb their nose to the law, these unwarrantable failure violations,’ said Joe Main, a recently retired safety director for the United Mine Workers for 20 years. ‘This is the kind of violation I think most operators cringe to get in a mining industry today because of the significance of the violation itself,’ he continued. ‘So there is definitely a serious problem at this coal mine when you look at just that one fact alone.’ In an interview for ABC News, Ross appeared aware of the extent and seriousness of the violations issued to the Sago mine over the last year. Yet, the company did not shut down the mine. ‘We were comfortable, based on the assurances from our management that they felt that it was a safe situation,’ Ross said of sending workers into the mine.” [ABC News, 1/5/05]

2006: The Sago Mine Disaster Trapped And Killed 12 Coal Miners And Left One In Critical Condition.According to NPR, “Most of the 13 coal miners trapped in an explosion apparently survived the blast itself, retreated deeper into the mine and hung up a curtain-like barrier to keep out deadly gases while they waited to be rescued, officials said Wednesday. All but one were found dead after more than a day and a half. The miners’ families learned of the 12 deaths after a harrowing night in which they were mistakenly told at first that 12 of the men were alive. It took three hours before the families were told the truth, and their joy turned instantly to fury. The sole survivor, Randal McCloy, was in critical condition with a collapsed lung and dehydration but no sign of brain damage or carbon monoxide poisoning after being trapped for more than 42 hours, a doctor said. At 27, McCloy was one of the youngest in the group.” [NPR, 1/4/06]

2004- 2006: Sago Mine Disaster Had Over 270 Safety Violations. According to New York Times, “But government investigators must waste no time in ascertaining the actual cause of the blast, for the Sago mine was already notorious for its long list of safety violations and fines. The mine, with more than 270 safety citations in the last two years, is the latest example of how workers’ risks are balanced against company profits in an industry with pervasive political clout and patronage inroads in government regulatory agencies. Many of the Sago citations were serious enough to potentially set off accidental explosions and shaft collapses, and more than a dozen involved violations that mine operators knew about but failed to correct, according to government records.” [New York Times, 1/5/06]