The Man Behind Sierra Blanca’s Woes

By J. Eller @SDzzz  SandersGuide 2016 YouTube

Hang onto your hats for the cold winds of corporate greed meet the hot rhetoric of socialist revolution to coalesce as a dark, menacing cloud over a town for 20 years, a town whose name has come to represent a veritable superstorm of political quid pro quo and environmental racism…Sierra Blanca.

The powerful man behind Sierra Blanca was Harold Simmons, but who was he? Among his many lucrative interests, Harold Simmons was owner of Waste Control Specialists (WCS), the politically designated disposal site for the Texas-Vermont-Maine Nuclear Waste Compact. The Sierra Blanca nuclear waste site was eventually legislated in H.R. 629 (105th) after Simmons had spent untold sums hiring lobbyists and buying politicians. Simmons liked to win and he usually did.

This venture was the Texas Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Compact Consent Act Sep 2, 1998 via co-sponsor Bernie Sanders (amid denials by Sanders that the site was Sierra Blanca) and introduced by Rep. Joe Barton, who received regular donations from Simmons and his wife. As you’ll see, Simmons was far more than one business venture. A mover-shaker in GOP politics, he had created so many environmental catastrophes that his Superfund sites have cost  U.S. taxpayers $4.4 billion. Would you trust this man to run a nuclear waste dump?

Harold Simmons was a right-wing Texas billionaire and corporate raider known as:

  • The King of Superfund Sites
  • Toxic Tycoon
  • Dallas’ Most Evil Genius
  • SuperPAC Sugar Daddy
    Once held 5 companies on the NYSE at one time
    Ranked 3rd GOP billionaires – Donation Bundler – SuperPAC Funder – Lobbyist contributing $40M since 1989.
    Some of Simmons’ Companies:
  • Contran Corp.
  • Valhi, Inc. TIMET- Titanium Metals Corporation (sold 2012) (world’s largest producer of titanium)
  • National Lead Industries, Inc (NL Industries) Gale Norton, later appointed as Secretary of Interior by George W. Bush was his lobbyist and lawyer against communities bringing suit for lead poisoning. NL Industries was responsible for the lead poisoning of Cadillac Heights, cursing a poor community south of Dallas with birth defects. Dallas’ Most Evil Genius
  • Halliburton (Dick Cheney was CEO)
  • Snake River Sugar Cooperative (co-op to take over ASC) Amalgamated Sugar Company (ASC)
  • WCS-Waste Control Specialists (Hazardous Waste) (Since 1995) With proper legislation and agency approval, WCS was on track to earn $100 million per year. Simmons also owned WCS-Texas Solutions Political Action Committee (PAC). Lobbied successfully to change laws to privatize radioactive waste disposal.
    • WCS bought the Sierra Blanca site (1995) even before it had performed a proper environmental study of it.
    • Immediately, H.R. 558 legislation was introduced in congress that year, failing to secure the Texas-Vermont-Maine Compact.
    • 12 million shares of Titanium Metals Corp., another Simmons company, provided financial assurance for the dump. It was a highly unorthodox arrangement that critics panned as a “polluters’ dream.” Titanium Metals’ stock plummeted not long after the deal was sealed. Eventually, in November, another company purchased Titanium Metals for $2.9 billion. Simmons then used 9.8 million shares of Kronos, another Simmons company (also sold). Texas Observer

Among top hard-right tycoons: Foster Friess (mutual funds), Harold Simmons (chemicals and metals), Bob Perry (home-building), and Sheldon Adelson (casinos)

Legal Defense Funds:

  • Oliver North, John Poindexter (Reagan aides implicated in the Iran-Contra scandal) You may recall Bernie Sanders deep involvement and support for the Sandinistas. It earned his followers the nickname Sanderistas.
  • Tom Delay Political crook extraordinaire.


  • Simmons owned WCS-Texas Solutions PAC (Sierra Blanca) Ethics violation 2012 (donations returned)
  • GOPAC (For Reagan) Swift Vets and POWS for Truth (Against John Kerry)
  • American Issues Project (Against Obama)
  • American Crossroads (Karl Rove – 2010 Midterms)
  • Make Us Great Again (Rick Perry)
  • Restore Our Future (Mitt Romney)
  • Restoring Prosperity Fund
  • Restore Our Future
  • George W. Bush’s 2005 inaugural ball Total donations to George W. Bush: $18 million

Before his death in 2013, Simmons proclaimed he was responsible for 83 GOP wins in midterm elections. Of course that doesn’t count the presidents he’s helped elect; Reagan and the father-son Bush family presidencies.

Prior to Citizens United, Simmons was a talented campaign bundler. Along the way he had to pay a few fines, a simple annoyance for a man of his $9 billion wealth. He was the most prominent donor for 2011:

” This was the role Sheldon Adelson, Harold Simmons and Bob Perry played in 2012 (see Table 3). A second strategy is to aggregate $500,000 and $1 million dollar contributions, as Restore our Future (Romney) did in 2012 (Magleby and Goodliffe, forthcoming). Interviews with some associated with 2012 Super PACs indicated that some individuals who before Citizens United and Speech Now would bundle $500,000 or more now preferred to write a single check. This is not to say there were not bundlers in 2012, as there were for both the candidates and for their Super PACs.” David B. Magleby -A Classification of Super PACs Into Three Types: Candidate, Party and Interest Group.

In an interview with Wall Street Journal covered by Texas Monthly, Simmons says of the midterm elections, “Any of these Republicans would make a better president than that socialist, Obama,” said Mr. Simmons during two days of rare interviews at his Dallas home and office. “Obama is the most dangerous American alive…because he would eliminate free enterprise in this country.”

He had to know all socialists wouldn’t eliminate free enterprise because self-avowed socialist Bernie Sanders had become one of his biggest nuclear waste customers at $20 million a pop, plus $25 million construction costs, a delicious victory to a man like Simmons whose acquisition strategy was about using other people’s money to build his fortune. Maine would also have to pony up $25 million, to assist in building the waste site. On financial strategy, Simmons once said, “the beauty of small banks is that you can buy so many of them and never use a dime of your own money”,  sounds like a proponent of breaking up large banks.

Foundations and Charities

Simmons also funded a few liberal causes and Democrats. Simmons’ politics are “pro-business, anti-government,” but he lacks interest in the abortion debate and other issues important to social conservatives. “I’d probably be pro-choice. Let people make decisions on their own bodies,” he said. Wall St. Journal

Harold Simmons Foundation (controlled by two of his daughters who later sued him over misuse of funds for his causes). A few of Simmons’ favorites:

  • Eric Cantor (R-VA) $32,500
  • David Dewhurst(R-TX) $20,000
  • Josh Mandel (R-OH) $10,000
  • Michael Williams (R-TX) $5,000
  • Pete Sessions (R-TX) $5,000
  • Marco Rubio (R-FL) $5,000
  • Roger Williams (R-TX) $4,800
  • John Thune (R-SD) $4,000
  • Kenny Marchant (R-TX) $2,500
  • Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) $2,400
  • Mike Conaway (R-TX) $2,000
  • Michelle Bachmann (R-MN) $1,000
  • Lamar Smith (R-TX) $1,000
  • Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) $1,000

How the Simmons daughters used their trust fund:

  • 2012: Planned Parenthood Federation of America $200,000 and Planned Parenthood of North Texas $101,750.
  • Approved $800,000 in future grants to Planned Parenthood Federation of America and $300,000 to Planned Parenthood of North Texas

Public Campaign (nonpartisan)
“…dedicated to sweeping campaign reform that aims to dramatically reduce the role of big special interest money in American politics,” received $350,000 from the Harold Simmons Foundation for a “campaign finance reform project.” It’s due another $250,000 in future cash. Harold Simmons Bankrolled Liberal Causes
According to the Center for Public Integrity, “Simmons donation dissonance springs from tumultuous relationships with his children and continues a long-standing pattern.”

Bernie Sanders could not have escaped knowing what was happening around him, with Simmons’ lobbyists scurrying through congress and Governor George W. Bush’s very public support of Sierra Blanca.



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