After limping over the Primary Election finish line with less than a majority of Republican voters, all of Pennsylvania is about to be introduced to Senator Scott Wagner over the next few months. So far, Senator Wagner’s made the focal point of his campaign his self-proclaimed business acumen. This has included prominently featuring Penn Waste in campaign commercials and stump speeches, holding campaign events at Penn Waste, and refusing to release his tax returns. This needs to change.
It’s worth recapping what we do know about Penn Waste so far and how Senator Wagner has handled his many conflicts of interest. Last year, PA Spotlight published a column titled “Wagner a walking, talking, conflict of interest” pointing to some of these conflicts, including sponsoring legislation that would directly benefit Penn Waste, chairing a committee in Harrisburg that oversees municipal governments and therefore Penn Waste’s main source of income, and claims that Penn Waste has breached and abused local contract bidding rules. If all this sounds too familiar, it’s because there is another recent politician who has made headlines by mixing his personal and political career to enrich himself.
In response to our critique of Senator Wagner, oddly Penn Waste’s Communications’ Director, who has also spent ample time advising Senator Wagner’s political career, responded. This is just one example of Senator Wagner moving his staff between his personal, political, and business interests.
In York county, residents have become familiar with Senator Wagner’s abusive business tactics over the years. Most famously, he sued an 84-year old woman who didn’t use Penn Waste’s trash services, an item first put out by the Republican Party. In fact, a leading GOP leader at the time said this was “maybe not as widely known as it should be.” PA Spotlight agrees. However, this is just the tip of the iceberg for Penn Waste. It’s also likely why the Pennsylvania Republican Party spent so much effort trying to stop Paul Mango’s recent commercials which brought up the many environmental violations Penn Waste has accumulated over the years.
Recently, another article brought to light abusive business practices that are even more concerning struggling families. Penn Waste sent sheriffs to customers’ homes to inventory their belongings for something as little as one late bill. The article lays out how one particular family struggled with medical bills which was the reason for the late payment. Directly due to Penn Waste’s actions, the total cost of the bill increased over 400% with additional court fees adding additional financial burdens. This is not a normal business tactic. In fact, according to the investigation, no other garbage removal company uses these practices in the operating area.
For a working family struggling to keep up with day-to-day bills and rising medical costs, the efforts of Penn Waste could be enough to plunge them into years of debt and financial stress. The municipalities that continue to contract with Penn Waste, which include most of York, Lancaster, Dauphin, and Cumberland counties, should know what type of business ethics Penn Waste undertakes and what type of legal risk and financial burden they’re opening their residents up to.
Senator Wagner has said that he will not put his business interests in a blind trust if elected and has so far refused to release his tax returns. His refusal to do either of these common practices continues in Senator Wagner’s pattern of only looking out for himself. It raises the question of what exactly he is hiding and why he’s afraid of being honest with the general public? Senator Wagner’s personal wealth directly depends on his ability to win municipal contracts with Penn Waste, an industry regulated by state government. How do we know municipalities won’t take this into consideration when dealing with Penn Waste moving forward? Quite simply, nothing in Senator Wagner’s background suggests that he is concerned about these blatant conflicts of interests.
Time and again, Senator Wagner points to his business acumen and record as the reason for why he is running for governor. That’s why it’s so surprising he refuses to release more information about his personal wealth and business interests. However, PA Spotlight chooses to take him at his word. If you are struggling to keep up with your bills amid rising health care costs, he will aggressively pursue you, plunging you more into debt. If you’re a senior who doesn’t use his services, he will send the court system after you. If you’re a public employee charged with regulating his business, he will impugn your integrity to discredit you. In the months ahead, we look forward to taking Senator Wagner’s challenge from the campaign stump and delving deeper into his actual record and how his shady practices would impact our state when put into practice in Harrisburg.