Independent Watchdogs Sound Alarm on Wagner’s Conflicts of Interest, Underscoring Need to See Tax Returns

Pennsylvania – Yesterday, The Caucus published a deep dive into Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Wagner’s extensive conflicts of interest, underscoring the need for him to release his tax returns. Wagner has many business interests and contracts with the state, but he is refusing to put his assets in a blind trust or recuse himself from his business operations should he be elected governor. If elected, Wagner would have the power to appoint top officials in state government for departments that have extensive oversight of his businesses.

“Independent watchdogs are sounding the alarm about Scott Wagner’s conflicts of interest,” said Beth Melena, communications director for Tom Wolf for Governor. “Wagner is the first gubernatorial candidate in 20 years not to release his tax returns, and as these watchdogs point out, those tax records are critical for voters to know more information about his conflicts of interest and how they will impact his decisions if elected governor. Scott Wagner must immediately release his tax returns.”

Read more about why Wagner’s business dealings and refusal to release his tax returns are so concerning here:

Wagner has declined to release any portion of his tax returns, breaking with a decadeslong custom in Pennsylvania’s governor’s race. Wolf publicly released the first two pages of his return and made the entire 102- page return available to a journalist for review. Wagner has said he does not want his employees to know how much he is paid.

If Wagner wins the election, critics worry that his diverse portfolio of investments could present conflicts and wonder about his ability to maintain a hands-off approach with regard to his businesses. While he was in the Senate, Wagner maintained control of those operations; Penn Waste received $578,000 in payments from the state for wastehauling services, according to the Treasury. Eagle Disposal received $97,000, according to PennWatch records.

Both companies have been prequalified by the Department of General Services for access to as much as $15 million in business through a state-run cooperative purchasing program. By being in the pool of vendors, the companies have access to a group of more than 8,600 purchasers.

Government watchdogs say Penn Waste’s state contracts alone should require Wagner to provide the public with additional disclosures, preferably tax records that show income from wages, capital gains, dividends — each listed individually by source.

“As governor, there would be opportunities for him to enrich his business through state contracts that would facilitate the trash-hauling business. It boils down to divestiture or recusal. If he is refusing to divest, then he must be held accountable and fully disclose his business interest,” said Craig Holman, of Public Citizen, a Washington, D.C.-based organization.

David Thornburgh, the president of the good-government organization Committee of Seventy, said Wagner’s large business portfolio and his contracts with the state necessitate he release his tax returns.

“Voters want to know that their officials are considering legislation for the right reasons: to benefit the communities and the people they represent, that there’s no sidebar deal that would help their individual business or individual interests,” he said. “If people lose that confidence, it devalues the whole system. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that if people lose confidence, they may be less likely to vote or lose sight of the legislative process.” [The Caucus, 10/24/18]

 

CONTACT: Beth Melena, beth@wolfforpa.com

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