February 25, 2012

Nexus Of Influence: Harold Simmons, Major Donor to Gov. Perry’s Super PAC Won Sweetheart Deal In Texas

Nexus Of Influence: Harold Simmons, Major Donor to Gov. Perry's Super PAC Won Sweetheart Deal In Texas
Harold Simmons
Dallas billionaire Harold Simmons is in the news this week after obtaining the distinction of becoming the biggest super PAC donor in the country. USA Today reports that Simmons has funneled $12 million to the Karl Rove group called Crossroads, and has backed super PACs supporting Newt Gingrich and Gov. Rick Perry with millions more.

One concern about the explosion of big money donors in the election system is that politicians will focus more on helping a small group of very wealthy people rather than serving the public interest.

Simmons, for instance, owns a controversial nuclear waste company called Waste Control Systems. Earlier this month, the Texas Observer’s Forrest Wilder reported that Simmons’ company won an unusual deal with the Texas state government. Specifically, the company was allowed to insure a massive waste dump using stock from another company owned by Simmons. Experts worry that the deal is inherently risky, and might leave Texas taxpayers on the hook in case the Simmons-owned corporation providing the stock dissolves. The contract also allows Waste Control Systems to then walk away from the dump after 30 years, forcing the state and federal government to take responsibility for tons of nuclear waste.

As Wilder notes, the waste contract is among many sweetheart deals won by Simmons. The arrangement appears to be a textbook example of crony capitalism. Big business using its connections to government to win special deals that are not in the public interest. In a post-Citizens United world in which campaign contribution limits are essentially eliminated, the sky is the limit for crony capitalism in the future.