The mining industry is digging deep to help fund Mike McGavick's Senate race. On Wednesday, industry leaders will host their fourth event...

WASHINGTON — The mining industry is digging deep to help fund Mike McGavick’s Senate race. On Wednesday, industry leaders will host their fourth event for him in a year in Washington, D.C.

The National Mining Association (NMA), the mine industry’s lobby, was among the first corporate groups to support McGavick with a 2005 fundraiser, before his formal campaign had begun.

An NMA spokeswoman said industry officials “just want a fair hearing” for two key issues: increased coal mining for national energy needs, and easier permits for mining on American soil.

McGavick, a Republican challenging Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell, will hit four fundraisers on Wednesday in the nation’s capital, including a $250-per-person lunch with Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and a $1,000-per-person reception at the NMA’s suites.

President Bush’s chief of staff, Josh Bolten, will headline a reception an hour later for McGavick at the Republican National Committee headquarters.

The final fundraiser features dinner at Johnny’s Half Shell on Capitol Hill.

The mining industry has been a quiet but important player in McGavick’s campaign, drumming up support for him among its members. In October 2005, NMA President Kraig R. Naasz joined McGavick’s former colleagues from the American Insurance Association to hold a dinner for McGavick.

Two of the eight hosts that night were members of the lobbying firm Washington 2 Advocates, which was founded by ex-staffers for former Republican Sen. Slade Gorton. McGavick was once Gorton’s chief of staff.

Washington 2 Advocates added the NMA to its client list this year. Tony Williams, a partner there, asked, “Where is the news?” in McGavick’s fundraising trip.

“Mike and Maria Cantwell are both raising money here,” he added.

But Cantwell won’t be getting money from NMA. Its communications director, Carol Raulston, said, “Senator Cantwell has a zero voting record on our issues.”

McGavick hasn’t stressed mining interests or issues in his campaign to date. In a written statement, his aide, Elliott Bundy, said, “As with any group supporting Mike, the NMA is hoping that if elected he will offer a fair and honest evaluation of their issues.

“Mike has raised serious issues with this group from mine safety to cleanup of abandoned sites to the future of clean coal in power generation. A significant amount of the country’s power is generated by coal and Mike has intense interest in making sure it is done in as environmentally friendly a way as possible,” Bundy wrote.

NMA’s co-sponsors for McGavick this week include Foundation Coal, the fifth-largest American coal consortium; former Republican Rep. George Nethercutt of Spokane, who is now a lobbyist; and Nethercutt’s partner, Andrew Lundquist.

Lundquist was the executive director of Vice President Dick Cheney’s energy task force, which met behind closed doors at the White House with oil-, gas- and coal-industry executives in 2001-02.

The firm Lundquist, Nethercutt and Griles represents several energy groups, including BP and the American Petroleum Institute, as well as mining firms. One client, Newmont Mining, bought Battle Mountain Gold Mine, which was the center of a fight over an open-pit operation at Buckhorn Mountain in Okanogan County.

Raulston said the mining industry is concerned that due to heavy regulations, “the permit process is very long” for opening new mines in the U.S.

“Coal is important to America’s energy security,” she said. Environmental issues and more than a dozen deaths in coal-mine accidents this year have led to demands for more regulation of coal-mining practices.

Alicia Mundy: 202-662-7457 or amundy@seattletimes.com