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Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., can’t hear the suffering of West Virginians, of Americans and of the world. Why? Because she’s distracted.

She’s been distracted a long time.

The distractions are myriad, but a few stand out. One such distraction is GEO Group. GEO Group is Sen. Capito’s top contributor, according to — a website dedicated to tracking campaign contributions administered by the Center for Responsive Politics — having given $46,000 to date. So, what is GEO Group? It is a “publicly traded real estate investment trust that invests in private prisons,” according to a Google search.

Then there is Sen. Capito’s next largest contributor, again according to the OpenSecrets site, FirstEnergy Corp. Yes, that FirstEnergy Corp. As in, the one embroiled in a scandal in Ohio over legislation with allegations of bribery, racketeering and money laundering, among others, that led to the arrest of Ohio State House of Representatives Speaker Larry Householder and four others. Capito has received $44,200 to date from FirstEnergy.

How much, you may wonder, has come Sen. Capito’s campaign from small, individual donations of $200 or less? Just 4.56% of the donations she has received, vs. 45.94% from political action committee (PAC) contributions and 40.75% from large, individual contributions.

Shelley Moore Capito’s Democratic opponent in this election cycle is Paula Jean Swearengin. Paula Jean is a West Virginia Can’t Wait candidate who has taken the WV Can’t Wait pledge not to accept corporate money, never to shy away from a debate with an opponent (as Shelley Moore has done), never to cross a picket line (and always support unions and collective bargaining) and always to “punch up, not down” — meaning to recognize that the struggle in this country is one of unfairness and inequality, not merely partisanship or ideology.

Paula Jean comes from a family of coal miners who made the ultimate sacrifices of their health and even their lives to provide energy and the ability to produce steel to this country. She’s seen the suffering caused by extractive industries who use up labor; pollute and contaminate the air, water and soil; destabilize the global climate; and destroy public health; then take their profits and run from West Virginia as fast as they can.

Paula Jean knows firsthand that the owners of capital, the shareholders and executives, don’t just give selflessly and with benevolence; workers must organize and collectively bargain to get their fair share and we must have state and federal laws that make this possible. Consumers, ratepayers and taxpayers are always on the hook with no protections when the corporate and industrial plutocrats get their way. We must have laws to protect us from this exploitation, like the privatizing of profits and the socializing of risks and messes. Paula Jean understands all of this. Paula Jean will fight for us in D.C. against the forces who fund and are carried by Capito.

She won’t be bought and as a result she’ll be able to hear your voice clearly.Vote Paula Jean Swearengin in 2020.

Eric Engle, of Parkersburg, is a community organizer and mobilizer who works on climate and environmental issues in West Virginia.