There’s Money in Trash

money-grubber“PACs linked to trash hauler supported local political campaigns”

That is the headline of a story on the OC Watchdog that reports thousands of dollars being funneled to local political candidates by Political Action Committees “with links” to CR&R, the trash hauler for many municipalities, including the city of Tustin. In all, more than $30,000 was spent to support candidates. Of that, then mayor John Nielsen received $7,000 while his cronies, Chuck Puckett and Allan Bernstein are reported to have received $2,000 each.

From the Watchdog:

One PAC gave $7,000 to the campaign of Tustin councilman John Nielsen who voted in 2010 to approve an amendment to an existing contract requested by the trash hauler, according to the forms. The PAC also contributed $2,000 apiece to support the campaigns of Allan Bernstein and Charles “Chuck” Puckett, Tustin council candidates who were not members at the time of the 2010 vote.

“It’s not illegal, but in my mind it just shows the influence of campaign money on the governmental process,” said Bob Stern, president of the Center for Governmental Studies. And, while CR&R’s lobbyist claims “these tiny amounts of dollars don’t buy anybody”, we would point out that $7,000 is about what it cost for one of those hit pieces Nielsen’s other allies, OCBIZPAC, financed against Nielsen’s political foes.

In reply to the report, John Nielsen said that he votes in the best interest of Tustin. “My only allegiance is to the voters and residents of Tustin.” Maybe. But, is it coincidence that Nielsen, in 2010, voted to change the terms of CR&R’s contract to eliminate their obligation to build a buyback recycling center? That vote occurred in March and was part of a deal that, in return from eliminating the buyback center, the waste company would distribute mulch to the community and take on other financial responsibilities previously assumed by the city. The supposed reasoning was the plethora of recycling centers located at supermarkets. I guess you’ll have to decide who got the better deal.

One thing we’ll agree with, John wasn’t influenced to vote one way or the other. However, it could very well have been payback by CR&R for his vote and insurance for future votes.

By our accounting, there are 5 years left on the CR&R contract. Expect to see, over the next few years, a ratcheting of contributions around the county where the waste conglomerate has a financial interest. It has always been our opinion that the measure allowing for long term trash contracts such as this was a scam foisted on an unwary public that relied a little too much on their city leaders to do the right thing. The Watchdog’s story seems to contradict Nielsen’s “coincidence” theory. And, with Nielsen’s buddies also getting a piece of the action, one has to wonder what other “contractual changes” CR&R may be planning in the future.

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2 thoughts on “There’s Money in Trash

  1. The direct money to candidates is nothing new by CR & R. The previous trash company followed the same practice. What is really “trashy and stinks” is the money laundering CR&R performs through a numerous series of Political Action Committees they have set up. In 2008 they passed money through several PACs to an obscure one, registered 100 miles away from Tustin. A large amount of money was passed there to campaign against Measure L by then current and former Tustin Council members. The community passed the Measure leading to numerous and significant upgrades and additions at Tustin HS, Foothill HS and new Event Centers at Utt,Currie,Hewes and CT Middle Schools. Regardless of a voters’ support or not for the Measure, the deliberate actions to hide where the money came from is a deception, lack of integrity and character by those running the company.

  2. Jonathan

    In response to your comments about CR&R

    Can you tell me why Balfour is the one and only choice for TUSD to build schools in Tustin? Can you justify the amounts of money they have given to TUSD candidates and other pet projects? Can you and do you believe all TUSD Board members reside in TUSD and have all residents best interests in mind? It really looks bad when Lynn Davis spends huge amounts of money to get his person on the Tustin City Council.This pissing match needs to end and we need term limits and new TUSD Board members. This current board has gotten three bond measures passed raised taxes and has not shown results in student scores throughout the district.

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