This is a rebuttal to Eric Richard’s response to my post from October 15th. His response is available here.
I am very happy to see Mr. Richard come out so strongly against the pipeline, and I hope that if he does become elected that we can work together to stop it from ever harming our community. As he correctly points out, at the end of the day we and our families all live here, and it’s in our best interests to work together.
On the issue of Mr. Richard’s employment, that of course would be impossible to hide (indeed, I was able to find this quite easily). However, that is not the point. There was no mention of his AFL-CIO affiliation and stance on any of the campaign material I was able to find over a search of a couple of days, and many voters rely predominantly on such material to make their decisions. Many voters will not dig into candidates the way a slightly OCD person like myself will, and as such it’s important in the name of transparency that such affiliations be highlighted.
I found it disturbing that he failed to mention that his entire professional career has been with the AFL-CIO, and I still do. When you couple this with the union donations to the campaign, the level of concern raises up a bit. Everyone I have talked to has indicated that $30,000+ for a township committee race is unheard of and perhaps even unprecedented. It deserves to be talked about, as does his views on unions.
In politics, perception is often everything.
Union Involvement with PennEast
Mr. Richard goes into some details about the unions he’s willing to accept contributions from, and what their technical ties to PennEast are or maybe. He states that there are “five unions that are signatories to the pipeline that would receive all the work if it were to proceed“, “our campaign has not accepted a PENNY from any of those signatory unions“, that “that one such signatory union…sent me a contribution over the summer – and I returned it to them immediately“.
I’m not precisely sure where Mr. Richard got the number five from or precisely what he means by signatory unions. Here is the official PennEast “supporters” page:
And here is a snapshot of that page as of Monday Oct 17, 2016 @ 12:29pm:
We see here 11, not 5, labor and construction trade unions coming out in favor of PennEast. Including LiUNA Local 158 and Local 472. LiUna is fact a part of the AFL-CIO:
…whom Mr. Richard works for in the capacity of a lobbyist, and who he received a donation from.
The United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry (aka UA) are not only on the supporters page, they are also mentioned in the PennEast Draft EIS as notable supporters. That union is the parent of Plumbers Local 9 and Plumbers Local 24, who combined have given $8,800 to their campaign.
Mr. Richard writes off the Plumbers Local 9 contribution by saying:
Are you aware – that some of the union leadership that you site in your article – such as Plumbers Local 9 – I’ve had a personal friendship with for over a decade? The business manager for this local was at my wedding six years ago. He has ZERO interest in anything except to see me succeed in my campaign.
This is disturbing on two levels. The obvious one is that Plumbers Local 9’s parent is UA, and UA is an official supporter of PennEast. The other side is perhaps even simpler – what does Mr. Richard’s personal friendship with union leadership have to do with giving him $8,800 of the union’s money for a campaign? It is not the union leader’s money, it’s the union’s. There’s a big difference.
There are other unions that are also pro-pipeline listed in their donation list, such as Sheetmetal Workers Local 25 ($5,000) and United Steelworkers District 4 ($1,000). They may not be technically a “PennEast signatory”, but in fact they are firmly pro-pipeline and there are numerous references to this fact available on-line.
On this issue I think Mr. Richard is splitting hairs here. He’s clearly received significant funds from unions who are pro-PennEast.
On Mr. Richard returning money from a “signatory”, I’d be interested in knowing which one and for how much. I didn’t see any refunds in the campaign contribution website other than a reduction in a donation (by Plumbers Local 9 for $400 refund I believe, but I can’t check right now the NJ election donations site is down).
Statements on PennEast and the Environment
Mr. Richard made a number of statements about his opposition to PennEast and support of the environment. I see those as a very positive sign, and if he is elected we will hold him to it. If he’s willing to share any publicly verifiable information on his support against PennEast or in favor of the environment, I’ll be happy to post it here.
I thank Mr. Richard for his rebuttal, and there’s a lot of hopefully information in there about the environment and the pipeline.
But with that said, some of his claims about where the money for his campaign is coming from, and whether or not they support PennEast, don’t seem to check out. There are some heavy pro-PennEast unions who have contributed the lion’s share of money to the campaign – and who went to who’s wedding is irrelevant (or, perhaps, looks even worse).
At the FERC scoping meeting I attended in Frenchtown, there were sheetmetal workers and steelworkers and pipe fitters in the crowd ringing the room, trying to intimidate anti-PennEast folks who were there to testify. Their unions contributed to Mr. Richard’s campaign.
At the Garden State Expansion, LiUNA shirts filled the room with union people paid to be there to try to force the NJDEP to allow the GSE to go through – despite all the wetlands impacts. The same LiUNA that is part of the AFL-CIO, Mr. Richard’s employer, and who he also received a contribution from.
Money talks, and there still is the question on why $30,000 is being raised in a campaign for a sleepy little rural town in Western NJ, and why unions from as far away as NY State care about who is on the Township Committee in West Amwell, NJ.
I would like to hear more from Mr. Richard about how he intends to stop PennEast, but accepting thousands of dollars from PennEast supporters is far from a promising start.