Thursday, February 2, 2012

Who is the Man Who Has Contributed Almost 9% of All SuperPAC Money?

Harold Simmons.

He's contributed $5.5 million of the $62.8 million collected in contributions (so far).

From D Magazine

So who is Harold Simmons? Forbes has him as the 33rd richest man in America, with a net worth of $9.3 billion. Matt Taibbi say he used $3 million of that to fund the Swift Boaters in 2004. Wikipedia says:
In 1960, using $5,000 of his savings, and a $95,000 loan, he bought a small drugstore, University Pharmacy on Hillcrest Avenue, across from the campus of Southern Methodist University.[8] Before Simmons owned it, University Pharmacy was the site of a racially charged sit-in in January, 1961, when its owner C.K. Bright sprayed insecticide over and around 60 students, only two of whom were black seminary students.[10] Simmons purchased the store and parlayed it into a chain of 100 stores, which in 1973 he sold for more than $50 million, to Eckerd Corporation. This launched his career as an investor, when he used the proceeds of that sale to begin speculation in the financial services industry. By 1974, he had been indicted for and acquitted of wire and mail fraud, and involved in a pension-related lawsuit brought against him by the United Auto Workers.[11][12]
Simmons developed his "all debt and no equity" philosophy of capital management from having observed banks as a bank examiner, realizing that "Small banks in Texas were casual about getting the maximum use of their funds. . . banks were the most highly leveraged thing I saw. They borrowed most of their money and really didn't need much equity except for purposes of public confidence." Understanding that banks could be bought entirely with borrowed money, Simmons theorized that he should "buy a bunch, because one bank could be used to finance another. All debt and no equity."[13]
Simmons conducted a widely publicized but unsuccessful takeover attempt on the Lockheed Corporation, after having gradually acquired almost 20 per cent of its stock.... At the time, the New York Times said, "Much of Mr. Simmons's interest in Lockheed is believed to stem from its pension plan, which is over financed by more than $1.4 billion. Analysts said he might want to liquidate the plan and pay out the excess funds to shareholders, including himself." 
Oh, and:
In August 1997, President Bill Clinton used a line-item veto to draw attention to the type of "special benefits" that investors such as Simmons employ to avoid paying capital gains taxes since the early 1980s. Simmons had formed the "Snake River Sugar Cooperative" of 2,000 beet farmers and classified it as a joint-venture, shared ownership co-op, to purchase his Amalgamated Sugar Company, for $260 million. At the time, Charles Schumer, serving as a House Representative from New York, wrote a letter to Clinton stating that the measure before him for consideration would benefit Simmons with a $104 million tax deferral. Simmons stated at the time that his tax deferral was only $80 million.[18] 

A  billboard on the eastern edge of Andrews, Texas, supporting construction of
Simmon's low-level nuclear waste storage facility.

From D (as in Dallas) Magazine's article "Harold Simmons' Nuclear Option":
Ask most anyone in Andrews or Andrews County if they’ve heard of Dallas billionaire and philanthropist Harold Simmons, and they’ll give you a blank stare or a quick “no.” But when you ask whether they know about Simmons’ firm, Waste Control Specialists—WCS for short—the answer is immediate. 
They know Waste Control is the company that wants to bury and permanently store the nation’s low-level radioactive waste in their county. And, “I’m in favor of it,” says Garry Evans, 50, a radiologic technologist, as he eats a tennis-shoe-size breakfast burrito at La Mexicana restaurant across from the WCS headquarters in downtown Andrews (pop. 10,300), the county’s only town. Evans goes on to make a convincing argument on behalf of a man he’s never met. “I think it’s good for the economy. It has to go somewhere. What can you do with pastureland?”
The answer seems obvious. Most people in Andrews County—about six hours west of Dallas-Fort Worth, off I-20—either want to allow low-level radioactive waste to be buried there, or they don’t care. That may be because, for the last 14 years, Simmons and his hired guns have shook hands, twisted arms, and spent at least $150 million to make it happen.
And Matt Taibbi reports that:
So what did Harold Simmons get for his money? A lot. 
For starters, a group of Perry appointees on the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality gave Simmons a license to build his hazardous nuke dump, even after the TCEQ's own team of scientists agreed that the project was too risky, given how dangerously close it lies to the Ogallala aquifer*, which provides drinking water for seven states.
When I visit the site in September, it has just rained in the area for the first time in a year - really - and there is water all over the place. Rod Baltzer, the president of WCS, insists that the wastewater is being contained and disposed of in a safe, orderly fashion. But it's hard not to look beyond the dump to nearby Eunice, New Mexico, visible just a few miles away, and wonder about the wisdom of taking a private company's word that there is no contaminated water running underground to the nearby town. Especially since another of Simmons' companies, NL Industries, has already been caught leaking radioactive waste into an aquifer in Ohio. In a supremely ironic demonstration of how the modern system of payola capitalism works, Simmons is now being paid millions by taxpayers, via the federal Energy Department, to clean up his own mess, moving radioactive waste from his dump in Ohio to the one in Texas. 
All of this is key to understanding Perry, because the WCS landfill so perfectly fits the business model of his key donors. The company leases the land for the dump, meaning that WCS keeps the lion's share of the profits, while the liability mostly stays with the state. There's no real regulation to speak of, and many of the state's decisions appear to have been greased by massive campaign contributions or other favors: The executive director of the state's environmental commission, for instance, received a job as a lobbyist for WCS not long after helping the firm get its license. 
What's more, the company even got the government to pay for the landfill, lobbying the town of Andrews to float a $75 million bond issue to finance the construction of two new dump sites on the property. And in a final insult, WCS managed to negotiate a loophole exempting it from having to pay school taxes in Andrews. Instead, it offers a few small scholarships a year. 
Water-pumping windmills tapping into the Agallala aquifer, via Charles Pierce.
* The Ogallala aquifer has gotten some attention lately, as the initial proposal for the XL pipeline would run underneath it. (XL has since offered to re-route the pipeline, according to Business Insider, "a move the company previously claimed wasn't possible." In reviewing the potential environmental impact of the pipeline, John Stansbury, professor of environmental water resources at the University of Nebraska,  took a look at what a worst-case scenario might be:

Stansbury estimated that worst-case spill would contaminate nearly five billion gallons of groundwater, and that the "plume" of benzene and other contaminants would be 40 feet thick, 500 feet wide, and 15 miles long.
Just the kind of place for nuclear waste.

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