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Did John Boehner Take Money from the Company Behind the West Virginia Spill?

Alex Wong/Getty Images News/Getty

UPDATE: We reported in the story below that Speaker of the House John Boehner received $5,000 in donations last year from Doug Simmons, the vice president of sales and marketing at Freedom Industries, the company responsible for the recent chemical leak in West Virginia. This reporting was based on a campaign finance filing that showed a $5,000 contribution from a Doug Simons, who listed his employer as Freedom Industries. Elana Schor, a reporter with Environment & Energy Publishing, raised doubts via Twitter that the Boehner donor and the Freedom Industries VP are the same person. We now share those doubts. The Boehner donor's last name is spelled "Simons" in FEC filings, and his listed address is in Marion, Illinois; that donor listed his job as "sup. freedom." The Freedom executive's name is spelled Doug Simmons, and that company is based in Charleston, West Virginia. We have reached out to Freedom Industries and Boehner several times to confirm our story, and will update if they respond.

The original story:

In the days since a coal-processing chemical leak contaminated West Virginia’s Elk River, leaving over 300,000 people without water, politicians have called on the state legislature and the U.S. Congress to come up with new safety regulations. But Speaker of the House John Boehner doesn’t think that’s necessary. “The issue is this: We have enough regulations on the books,” said Boehner at a press conference on Tuesday. “What the administration ought to be doing is actually doing their jobs.”

Boehner’s stance implied that the federal government, not Freedom Industries, the company with the faulty container, was to blame. He declined to mention that he received a total of $5,000 in donations from Freedom Industries in July, 2013, contributed by the company's VP of sales and marketing Doug Simmons. Both Boehner’s office and Freedom Industries refused to comment for this story. The company, which has stayed quiet save for one press conference since the spill, has also been linked to the conservative powerhouse Koch Industries.

“Why wasn’t this plant inspected since 1991?” Boehner asked Tuesday. As I and others have noted, West Virginia law does not mandate inspections or permits for facilities like the one that leaked, which stores, but does not produce, industrial chemicals. Hence the need for more regulation. The Speaker was more concerned with “those regulations that we think are cumbersome, are over the top, and that are costing the economy jobs.” Boehner should come clean about whether those regulations would cost him, too, before he says another word in Freedom Industries' defense.    

H/T Walter Kappler at Colorado Front Range