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By Anonymous Mike, pseudonymously.

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Monday, August 18, 2008
Voluntary Contributions

During one of his tenures as a major league manager, Davey Johnson fined one of his players for some infraction and had said player pay the fine as a contribution to one of Johnson's charities. This of course was a major no-no, generated alot of heat from the owner of the team and the players union, and contributed to Johnson's dismissal. After all, the ability to punish someone by taking money out of their pocket and then steer the money to your own benefit is well... an abuse of power.

So what to make of this in last week's Arizona Republic?

Arizona Corporation Commissioner Gary Pierce is questioning the legality of a hazardous-waste settlement reached last week with Honeywell International Inc. The settlement, which included a $5 million fine and a $1 million contribution to an air-quality cleanup project, was one of the largest civil penalties ever in an Arizona environmental-justice case.

Later in this story we find what that "air-quality cleanup project" is....

The settlement, which still must be approved by the courts, states that the money will be earmarked for the governors' use as part of the Western Climate Initiative efforts to "develop regional strategies for addressing climate change."

Now Espresso Pundit has been all over this story, but I'll try to add a worthwhile 2 cents.

The agency which reached the settlement with Honeywell was the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, the director of which is Steve Owens. Mr. Owens is also the co-chairman of the Western Climate Initiative (WCI), which in turn is a project of the Western Governors Association. Keep in mind Honeywell is being fined for ground water pollution, not air pollution. If you parse the language, there is a $5 million fine for the act of pollution and that will presumably will go toward clean-up. There remaining $1 million penalty is in the form of a contribution that will go directly from Honeywell to Mr. Owens' project.

A logical assumption is that Honeywell agreed to this contribution in order to escape larger penalties for their conduct, perhaps there are public relations aspects and all, but you have to believe that at least the fine would have been $6 million if not more. So here's the question...

Who approached whom over the contribution?

Did Honeywell try to escape a larger punishment, either financial or in terms of public relations, by volunteering to help out a project of Mr. Owens and the Governor? Was it instead Steve Owens, with or without the knowledge of the Governor, who approached Honeywell and arranged a contribution to his project?

So was it bribery or extortion?

Think that's putting it too harshly? Maybe it's not either of those in a criminal sense but when money changes hands to the benefit of an outside project of the enforcement officer it's certainly on those grounds in an ethical sense. I expect to see such actions in Chicago or Jersey, not here in Arizona. If the Governor and Mr. Owens need money for their out-of-state projects, they shouldn't be raising it from the very entities that they regulate.