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Published: Thursday, 2/7/2013

DEADLY ALLIANCE: WEAPONS OVER WORKERS

Brush backs politicians -- and vice versa

Firm's political action committee contributes to noted lawmakers

BY SAM ROE
BLADE SENIOR WRITER
Brush's PAC fund has backed lawmakers who have beryllium facilities in their districts. U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur of Toledo, seen here touring the Elmore plant, has received $2,000. Brush also has opposed Miss Kaptur, once backing an opponent, Ken Brown, with $5,000. Brush's PAC fund has backed lawmakers who have beryllium facilities in their districts. U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur of Toledo, seen here touring the Elmore plant, has received $2,000. Brush also has opposed Miss Kaptur, once backing an opponent, Ken Brown, with $5,000.
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Brush Wellman Inc. has had many friends in high places.

U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah once opposed a worker safety plan that would have cost the company millions of dollars.

Toledo Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur once obtained federal funds for the company to help it convert its defense technology to commercial uses.

And U.S. Rep. James Hansen of Utah and U.S. Rep. Paul Gillmor of Ohio once pushed legislation that could have potentially exempted the company from proposed mining rules and fees.

Likewise, Brush Wellman has backed these lawmakers -- with thousands of dollars in campaign contributions.

Since 1988, Congressman Gillmor has received $26,500; Congressman Hansen, $24,400; Senator Hatch, $10,000, and Congresswoman Kaptur, $2,000, a review of Federal Election Commission records shows.

Overall, Brush Wellman has donated a total of $187,700 to 47 lawmakers and candidates since 1988. Most have been Republicans running for Congress in states in which Brush has beryllium plants, such as Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Utah.

DEADLY ALLIANCE: How government and industry chose weapons over workers

The contributions are perfectly legal: The money comes from Brush's political action committee, or PAC. It was created in 1987 and is called the Brush Wellman Good Government Fund. Brush's PAC money comes from payroll deductions from some of the company's top executives.

"It's the company's right -- it's anybody's right -- to petition government," says Hugh Hanes, Brush's vice president of government affairs.

"ur participation in a PAC is no different than labor organizations, or environmental organizations or other people that support candidates that support the principles that they believe in."

He says Brush does not expect politicians to give Brush favors in return for donations.

"Frankly, I don't think any representative or member of Congress would be influenced by the modest amounts that the [Brush] PAC gives."

Brush documents turned over in recent lawsuits show the company does expect certain lawmakers to back the firm.

When Congress was debating several bills affecting American manufacturers in 1987, Brush executive Richard Davis offered a lobbying strategy in a memo to Brush colleague James Gulick.

"Since these are issues which will impact all manufacturers, not just Brush Wellman, I don't believe we should 'use up any favors' owed us by our most reliable supporters," Mr. Davis wrote.

In a related memo, Mr. Davis wrote that Brush official Stephen Zenczak would monitor the legislation with "Orin (sic) Hatch's people" and that Mr. Zenczak "agreed we shouldn't use up our favors on a bill that won't have as big an impact on [Brush] as on the rest of industry."

Mr. Zenczak, now retired from Brush, says Senator Hatch has long been a friend of the company, which has a mine and plant in the senator's home state of Utah. He says Mr. Hatch, a Republican, has frequently helped Brush gain access to key U.S. officials, such as those in the Defense Department.

"You just can't knock on the doors of those [officials] and say, `I want to talk with you,' " Mr. Zenczak says.

Hatch aide J.J. Brown says Brush is a constituent, and Senator Hatch helps constituents who have legitimate requests.

Campaign contributions do not influence whom the senator helps, the aide says. Most constituent requests are handled by staffers, who do not know who has given money. "To me, contributions are irrelevant."

Senator Hatch would not turn over to The Blade any documents he had regarding Brush, pointing out in a letter that Congressional offices are exempt from public records laws.

But documents obtained from the Energy Department show that Senator Hatch once opposed a worker safety plan that would have cost Brush millions of dollars.

In 1975, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration proposed lowering the limit of deadly beryllium dust that workers could be exposed to. In 1978 and 1979, Senator Hatch weighed in on the issue, writing to Labor Secretary Ray Marshall, U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn, and Health, Education, and Welfare Secretary Joseph Califano, Jr.

At first, Senator Hatch questioned the scientific studies on which the safety plan was based. When a panel of independent experts verified the science behind the plan, Senator Hatch tried a different approach: He wrote to Senator Nunn, a member of the Armed Services Committee, saying the plan could harm national security.

In the end, the worker safety plan died.

Today, Senator Hatch says he only vaguely recalls the issue and could not comment, according to his chief of staff, Patricia Knight.

Another Utah Republican who has received Brush PAC money is Congressman Hansen. His district includes Brush's Utah plant and the open-pit mine, where the company extracts beryllium-containing ore.

In 1993, Congressman Hansen tried to help Brush on a bill that would have required mining firms to pay higher fees and royalties on the minerals they mined.

As House members debated the bill, Congressman Hansen proposed an amendment that could have potentially exempted Brush. He wanted to give the Defense Department the power to exempt firms like Brush Wellman to ensure ample national defense materials. He said forcing Brush to pay increased royalties could threaten the U.S. beryllium supply.

Congressman Gillmor, a Republican whose district includes areas near Brush's Elmore plant, agreed. Holding a piece of beryllium-containing ore, he told colleagues they should not "damage critical industries that are of strategic importance to our national defense."

In the end, Mr. Hansen's amendment failed, 193 to 238. U.S. Rep. George Miller, a California Democrat, called it "an outrageous amendment, all in the name of national security."

Both Mr. Hansen and Mr. Gillmor deny that campaign contributions had anything to do with their actions.

"Of course not. Patently absurd," Hansen aide Bill Johnson says.

Congressman Hansen, he says, was trying to protect beryllium supplies for national security purposes. "There is one beryllium mine in this country. It happens to be Brush Wellman."

Christopher Slagle, press secretary for Congressman Gillmor, says: "We make legislative decisions based on the merits of the decisions in question.... There's no quid pro quo between a contribution" and a political decision.

Mr. Gillmor has backed Brush in other ways. In 1996, he gave a glowing tribute to the company in honor of its community party called "BrushPride Day." He entered the speech in the Congressional Record, calling Brush "a model citizen."

"As their mission statement so aptly states: `We are committed to on-time delivery of defect-free competitive products and services to all of our customers by always performing to requirements.' "

As for Toledo Congresswoman Kaptur, a Democrat, Brush has both backed and opposed her. Likewise, she has both helped and hurt the firm.

From 1988 to 1995, Brush's PAC did not give her any money. In fact, in 1992, when her district expanded to include the Elmore plant, Brush contributed $5,000 to her opponent.

And the opponent was not just anybody: He was Ken Brown, a Brush Wellman chemical engineer. Mr. Brown, the endorsed Republican, was trounced by Ms. Kaptur, capturing only 25 per cent of the vote.

A few months later, in May, 1993, Ms. Kaptur sparked an OSHA inquiry of Brush's Elmore plant.

"I have received several complaints from current and former Brush Wellman employees regarding the conditions at that plant," she wrote to OSHA's Toledo office. "I am quite concerned that people could become terminally ill simply because of where they work."

OSHA found 11 violations, and Brush paid $12,350 in fines.

A year later, in 1994, Ms. Kaptur was helping Brush. Her amendment to a Defense Department spending bill gave $2 million to several businesses, including Brush, to help convert defense technologies to commercial uses.

In a press release, she said national security was at stake.

"If the United States fails to convert quickly to commercial applications for beryllium, our nation will lose its production capability and be forced to purchase future supplies from either China or Kazakhstan."

Since 1996, Ms. Kaptur has received $2,000 from Brush.

She says she has had two long-standing concerns regarding Brush: protecting the workers and maintaining jobs at the Elmore plant. "I've tried to work on both fronts," she says.



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