Toxic Sludge Champ Rick Perry
by David Atkins ("thereisnospoon")
This story hasn't received nearly as much press as it deserves:
Texas Gov. Rick Perry tried to remove a state commissioner who opposed expanding a West Texas nuclear waste dump run by one of his largest political donors, Reuters reports today. When it became clear that Bobby Gregory of the Texas Low-Level Radioactive Waste Compact Commission might be able to block the dump from accepting out-of-state nuclear waste, Perry's office offered him an alternative job—a prestigious post on the board of regents of a state university.
The news is certain to fuel the longstanding political scandal over the dump, which was licensed in 2008 by Perry's top environmental regulator, Glenn Shankle, over the objections of his staff, three of whom resigned rather than sign off the on the deal (Shankle later left to become a lobbyist for the dump's parent company, Waste Control Solutions). WCS is owned by Harold Simmons, a billionaire corporate raider who has given Perry's campaigns at least $1.2 million.
This is an especially big deal, since Rick Perry has fueled his political career on the backs of just a few big donors. Of particular note is one Harold Simmons, nuclear waste dump kingpin of west Texas. Per NPR:
In his career as governor of Texas, a state where millionaires are plentiful and contribution limits are lax, Perry has raised about half his campaign cash from just 204 big donors, according to an analysis by the watchdog group Texans for Public Justice. And his administration has helped many of those donors, even when it comes to disposing of radioactive waste.
Perry donor Harold Simmons, an 80-year-old billionaire, is a political player. He gave millions of dollars to Swift Boat Veterans for Truth in 2004, financing ads that knee-capped Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry.
For Perry, Simmons has anted up roughly $3 million worth of support over the past decade — some of the money going to Perry's campaign committee, other dollars going to the Republican Governors Association when Perry was fundraising for it.
Simmons also owns Waste Control Specialists LLC, working in the heavily regulated industry of radioactive waste disposal.
Craig McDonald, of Texans for Public Justice, says those two facts go together.
"There has been no secret that Harold Simmons' direct self-interest lies in building, permitting and operating his hazardous waste dump and low-level nuclear waste dump in West Texas," he says. "And the wheels have been greased at every turn."
n 2003, the Texas Legislature took the state-run radioactive waste program and made it a private monopoly for Waste Control Specialists. Simmons later bragged about the lobbying that accomplished that.
Waste Control Specialists owned the site in West Texas. But it needed an environmental review. A panel of eight state employees fended off corporate lobbyists and the Perry administration for four years to produce their report.
"We knew from the beginning that this permit was intended to be issued," says Glenn Lewis, who was on the panel.
And they understood why.
"The realization that Harold Simmons was a top campaign contributor to Gov. Perry," Lewis says.
Recall that when George W. Bush was selected President, there was a sense that things wouldn't be so bad, because Bush had a record of cooperative with Democrats in the legislature, and no terribly onerous scandals involving outright corruption. He was, until he moved into the Oval Office, the sort of Republican who could take up the mantle of the "compassionate conservative" and people would believe him. There had been indications of Bush's absence of character throughout his life, but his record as a politician did not suggest that he would be the most corrupt and hyper-partisan president in America's history.
Rick Perry's record, by contrast, is incontrovertibly and ostentatiously corrupt and incompetent. It's all on the record:
If a majority this nation elects Rick Perry president, its citizens will deserve every moment of suffering they receive. There will be no excuse.