An Excerpt from Greg Palast’s Billionaires & Ballot Bandits

The Ice Man, Radioactive

When the Ice Man told Karl Rove, “I’m in,” he wasn’t fooling around. The Ice Man, Texan Harold Simmons, is now the Number One donor to the Republican Party. The Ice Man, who got his nickname for his merciless, cold-hearted tactics as a corporate raider, says he expects to give $36 million to Republican candidates and nominees in 2012. Add in what he’s giving Rove and it goes to well over $50 million for the year. Of course, that’s peanuts for a man worth nearly $10 billion.

In the 2012 Republican primary, he gave $1.2 million to presidential candidate Rick Santorum to attack Mitt Romney. And he gave nearly a million dollars to Restore Our  Future,  the  pro-Romney  super-PAC,  to  buy  ads to attack Newt Gingrich. He gave $1.1 million to Newt Gingrich to attack Santorum and Romney. He gave their opponent Rick Perry’s super-PAC yet another million to let the governor of Texas make a jackass of himself on national TV.

What is the Ice Man up to, giving each one of these guys enough money to beat the hell out of the other? I can’t claim to know everything in the Ice Man’s head. He’s playing multidimensional chess when I’m playing checkers. But, at the least, I know he’s teaching all the candidates to heel, roll over, and beg.

He certainly didn’t give a rat’s ass about the candidates’ positions on the hot-button issue of the primary, abortion and contraceptives. Simmons thinks all of them are nuts: he’s pro-choice. It’s not about philosophy, but, as Michael Corleone said in The Godfather, “It’s strictly business.”

Simmons is the King of Filth. I don’t mean porn; I mean the stuff that can kill you, and does. His two big businesses today  are  NL  Industries  and  Waste  Control  Specialists LLC. Their value, billions or busted, is completely depen- dent on government gimmes and rules: permits, environmental regulations, and the handling of poisons and taxes, of course—but most important, as we’ll see, the law of torts.

His $50 million for Rove and Republicans is only one half of 1 percent of his wealth. As his candidates’ tax and business proposals would easily boost his net worth by $2 billion, his return on investment could top 4,000 percent on just those two pieces of real estate called the White House and the Capitol. Not bad.

One investment, the $1.2 million Simmons put into Governor Rick Perry’s campaign for president, is already paying off big time.

The key for Simmons was that Perry’s run for president belly-flopped. The Ice Man is no fool: Simmons knew his fellow Texan was a putz and would crash and burn in the first presidential debates. So why blow $1.2 million on Perry?

Here’s why: Texas law is, believe it or not, one of the toughest regarding donations to a sitting governor’s campaign for reelection. But if that governor happens to be running for president, well, the sky’s the limit. And if that governor ends up back in the statehouse in Texas, that governor knows who’s pleasured his campaign treasury.

Perry’s loony run for the White House, once finished, meant that Perry remains governor of Texas, exactly where the Ice Man needs him.

Why? The Ice Man’s new big investment is Waste Control Specialists LLC. The Ice Man wants to take in all of America’s toxins and poisons, creating a twenty-square-mile toxic dump in West Texas. But it was a dump without a hole. The business zoomed in value once the State of Texas gave Simmons a hole for his waste dump. The permit for the crapola was issued despite the unanimous objection by the state’s own expert panel, which said the hole was way too close to the giant Ogallala aquifer, the very same water source that Obama tried to save by moving the XL Pipeline. It’s the drinking water source for eight states.

Nevertheless, all three political hacks on the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality appointed by Perry overruled their experts and issued the Ice Man the license for his dump—not even allowing a public hearing.

In March 2012, after flunked-out presidential candidate Perry skulked back to the Texas governor’s mansion, another one of his agencies approved Ice Man’s super-dump to take in nuclear waste, a decision made over the howling objections of Texas cities through which the hot junk would travel.

Now, toxic dumps have a habit of leaking and causing cancers. If this one leaks it will poison and irradiate the Ogallala.

And that leads to lawsuits. No problemo, pardner! Perry supported a voter referendum and lobbying campaign, backed by two million dollars from a group called Texans for Lawsuit Reform, which virtually eliminates the ability of Texans to sue for pain and suffering if they are dying of cancer from negligently leaked toxins. The two million for “Texans” came from the Ice Man.

For Ice Man Simmons, this is a two-fer—because Simmons’s main source of billions is in the mental retardation business. That requires some explanation.

Simmons controls NL Industries, a name that beats the hell out of “National Lead,” its old name, whose most well-known product was the popular Dutch Boy paint. The paint’s brilliant colors were attributed to its special ingredient: lead.

The Ice Man took over the company in 1986 (Simmons virtually invented the hostile leveraged buyout). His stock quickly doubled, earning him roughly a half-billion-dollar capital gain. But more important, he was able to seize the company’s treasury as a cash source for other raids. But there was a threat to the Ice Man’s cash kitty in NL. The Dutch Boy was, it turns out, a mass murderer. According to the industry’s own research, lead poisoning killed hundreds. Then it gets ugly: lead-based paint causes severe mental retardation in poor neighborhoods where the poison is peeling off the walls.

Example: In New York, Ana Amparo’s son suffered “brain injuries, cognitive deficits, learning disabilities, reduction of intelligence, behavioral and attention dis- orders.” When he was sixteen, forensic tests traced the problem back to lead paint whose chemical tags named the maker of the killer product: NL’s Dutch Boy.

The key for Simmons to keep his billions out of the hands of NL’s victims is “tort reform”—the political campaign to take away an injured person’s right to sue.

Simmons appears to have bought himself protection from lawsuits by the victims of his enterprises in Texas, and he’s made clear he wants to take his push for protection from his victims on the road to all fifty states.

When the lead-head isn’t fighting retarded children, Simmons is fighting taxpayers. Simmons’s company has refused to pay its share of the half billion dollars a year it costs to remove lead-contaminated paint from school-houses.

The regulations that removed lead from gasoline, paint, and most batteries have saved hundreds of lives and prevented thousands of cases of mental retardation. This makes Simmons crazy: he wants to eliminate all government environmental regulation—a philosophy you could call “Lucrative Libertarianism.”

All candidates who receive Ice Man’s easy-squeezy are pledging to eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency, but that’s not good enough. In 2012, Rove’s dogsbody, Congressman Tim Griffin, still not in prison, sponsored HR 4078, the Regulatory Freeze for Jobs Act, “to provide that no agency may take any significant regulatory action until the unemployment rate is equal to or less than 6.0 percent.”

New York Congressman Jerry Nadler, sniffing the value of the bill to radioactivity king Simmons, formally moved to amend the proposed law’s title to the Nuclear Death and Destruction Act of 2012.

But what’s the use of a bill without a Congress to pass it, or a president to sign it?

As Simmons’s ally, corporate super-lobbyist Grover Norquist, put it, they just need a president “with enough working digits to handle a pen . . . to sign the legislation that has already been prepared.”

Prepared by Grover and the Ice Man.

And that’s what the $50 million in “donations” is for.


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