Alaska GOP senator routinely voted for policies that benefited family's chemical company
Senator Dan Sullivan, a Republican from Alaska, speaks during a Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee hearing with Andrew Wheeler, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), not pictured, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on May 20, 2020 EPO Administrator Andrew Wheeler will face questions as his agency faces legal challenges and criticism to facilitate enforcement during the COVID-19 pandemic and to reset vehicle emissions regulations. Al Drago Pool / Getty Images
Senator Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, facing an unexpectedly tight challenge from Democrat-backed independent Al Gross, has repeatedly voted for policies that benefit his family's financial interests of the industrial multinational.
Sullivan, who was first elected in 2014, has been under scrutiny in the past few weeks as democratic groups poured money into the Alaska race to surprisingly expand the voting card. A recent investigation by Popular Investigation revealed detailed links between Sullivan and corporate donors pushing for the development of the Pebble Mine, a sprawling project in a part of Alaska that hosts the world's largest sockeye salmon fishery and a number of state-sanctioned tribal governments.
The Republican incumbent's nominations and voting results, which were considered by Salon, appear to show links to another industrial interest that is polluting: Republic Powdered Metals International (RPM), a seal and coatings manufacturer founded by his grandfather in 1947. Sullivan's older brother, Frank is the current CEO.
Senate records show Sullivan holds between $ 1 million and $ 5 million in RPM stock. Since its first financial disclosure in 2014, it has earned dividends and capital gains of up to $ 300,000. Since 2018, he has topped that revenue with eight stock sales, bringing in a total of $ 495,000, the disclosures show.
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Sullivan's campaign spokesman Matt Shuckerow told Salon: "Unlike Al Gross' closest adviser, former Senator Mark Begich, who was active in day-to-day business during his tenure, Sen. Sullivan has been overseeing his investments for a long time Financial advisor delegated. ""
The Associated Press reported in 2015 that Sullivan's committee duties overseeing areas of interest to RPM were his "top picks".
"Sullivan said he was looking forward to the work and was happy with his committee duties, which he identified as his top picks," the point of sale wrote. "Sullivan will serve on the committees on Commerce, Science and Transport, Environment and Public Works, Armed Forces and Veterans Affairs."
The Environment and Public Works Committee oversees the Environmental Protection Agency that targeted RPM during Sullivan's tenure. The conglomerate has fined more than $ 2.2 million since 2015 to various environmental regulators, including the EPA, for violating the Clean Air Act and chemical reporting requirements, among other things.
RPM expressed its frustration with government oversight in its annual filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission in July 2020, claiming the government had "numerous, complicated, and often increasingly stringent laws and regulations relating to the environment, health and safety Security "burdened.
This filing shows that an RPM subsidiary called Carboline has agreed to a $ 1.3 million settlement with the EPA for violating the Comprehensive Environmental Compensation, Compensation and Liability Act after the company called "a release or impending release" dangerous Substances "was named by Lammers Barrel Superfund site in Beavercreek, Ohio. The final amount was still subject to approval at the time of submission.
Other RPM subsidiaries have also received fines in recent years. The New Jersey Environmental Protection Department filed a $ 192,000 quote with Kirker Enterprises in 2019 for failing to fully meet the requirements for an air permit.
Rust-Oleum, another RPM subsidiary, agreed to a $ 168,000 settlement with the EPA in 2018 for violating hazardous waste reporting requirements at its Williamsport, Maryland facility. The same work paid out another $ 133,000 a year later. (No waste was released according to the EPA.)
RPM paid an additional $ 181,000 to the EPA in 2017 for violations of Rust-Oleum's Clean Air Act. The 2018 SEC filing found that Rust-Oleum had reached a $ 455,000 deal with the California Air Quality Agency on hazardous compounds.
On the committee, Sullivan voted against EPA regulations for certain harmful carcinogens found in sealants such as formaldehyde made and sold by RPM. He also voted against a 2015 amendment that would have tightened asbestos rules. In the previous year, the RPM subsidiary Bondex paid $ 800 million to settle asbestos claims and thus filed for bankruptcy.
That change would have identified asbestos as a "high priority chemical for government regulation" according to Congressional Quarterly. Sullivan's vote was significant in that the committee rejected the amendment by two votes apart.
Sullivan also voted to approve two President Trump-appointed EPA administrators - Scott Pruitt and Andrew Wheeler, the agency's current head - who both later blocked the proposed Obama-era regulations for a chemical turned into an anti-RPM Daughter was involved in pending unlawful death lawsuit. Both nominees were confirmed politically.
The woman who filed the unlawful death lawsuit settled with Rust-Oleum in June 2020. She also sued the EPA in 2019 for refusing to ban the chemical entirely. This case is still pending.
On the committee, Sullivan voted against a number of changes to the Frank Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act to strengthen EPA oversight of chemical companies and compounds contained in RPM products. One change would have imposed new compliance requirements, while another would have required the EPA to consider the threat posed to drinking water by the substances. Both amendments failed and in the case of the latter amendment, Sullivan's vote was decisive. (The amendment failed by 10 to 10 votes.)
Sullivan also voted pivotally on an amendment that would have allowed the EPA to study pollutants and toxic substances that can cause cancer and other disease clusters.
During that time, RPM continued to oppose environmental regulations and compliance standards which the company said could be subject to "unforeseen future expenses or liabilities that could materially adversely affect our business." The goals included the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Toxic Substance Control Act.
The company's CEO - Sullivan's brother - praised the Trump administration's approach to environmental regulations, telling Crain's Cleveland Business in 2017 that he approved of the president's "lighter regulatory touch".
Sullivan, who served on committees charged with overseeing military construction budgets and veterans affairs, also voted for budget increases, which opened up new opportunities for RPM to secure millions of federal contracts.
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Aside from Sullivan's stock sales and dividends, his campaigns have raised more than $ 70,000 from RPM employees and executives. The company's PAC contributed a maximum of $ 10,000 to Sullivan's 2020 re-election campaign.
Sullivan's Senate Office and RPM International did not respond to Salon’s request for comment.
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