This PA. Gov Debate Brought To You In Part By One Of The Candidates

Penn Live
October 1, 2018
By Jan Murphy

Penn Waste’s recognizable logo has played a prominent role in this year’s gubernatorial campaign.

It was there on the waste hauling company’s trucks sat in the background as the company’s owner, Republican Scott Wagner, announced he was running for governor. It shows up in several of his political commercials and he got running mate Jeff Bartos to join him in wearing a safety vest with the Penn Waste logo on it in a campaign video . And undoubtedly on Monday, the logo will be visible somewhere at the 34th annual Chamber Dinner since Penn Waste is a high-paying gold sponsor. As part of this pricey affair, Jeopardy! game show host Alex Trebek moderating the one and only gubernatorial debate between Wagner and Democratic incumbent Gov. Tom Wolf in the campaign.

Wagner’s campaign spokesman Andrew Romeo said Wagner doesn’t see his company’s sponsor of the event as a concern or inappropriate. The Wolf campaign declined to comment about the matter.

Gene Barr, president and CEO, also doesn’t see it as problematic for several reasons. “Penn Waste is a member of our organization. We certainly wouldn’t say you couldn’t participate. Penn Waste was a member of this organization before Scott Wagner announced he was running for governor,” Barr said. If Wolf’s former cabinet and building materials supply company, the Wolf Organization, wanted to be a sponsor, Barr said it would be permitted as well. “It has no impact on the questions that get asked. Sponsors don’t get to see the questions. Sponsors don’t get to have veto power over them,” Barr said. Beyond that, he said this isn’t the first year Penn Waste has sponsored this chamber event. So just because the company’s owner is the Republican candidate, “we certainly don’t want to say you can’t do it this year.”

But an adviser to the Democratic-leaning advocacy group Pennsylvania Spotlight finds it concerning.

“This is yet another example in the long laundry list of Wagner explicitly and inappropriately using his political campaign to benefit his own personal bottom line and misusing his business funds to boost his political career,” said adviser Joshua Henne.

G. Terry Madonna, a political scientist at Franklin & Marshall College, however, sides with Barr. He expects Trebek who Barr said is developing the questions to be asked will be sensitive to potential conflicts.

As for Penn Waste’s logo being highly visible in the Wagner campaign, he said that’s inevitable when a candidate is running for a major office and owns a big enterprise. He also said he hasn’t seen it be much of a difference-maker in the race given Wolf’s double-digit lead in every independent poll done so far. “The fact that Penn Waste is just ubiquitous in terms of what the company does and the clients they have, it’s just one of those things that occurs,” Madonna said.