Meet The Renco Group, $1M Donor to Romney-aligned Restore Our Future Super PAC

By: Kurt Walters and Adam Smith

The Mitt Romney-aligned Restore Our Future super PAC raised roughly $7.5 million in July, according to a report filed yesterday with the Federal Election Commission. One of those donations was a $1 million check from the Renco Group, a New York-based holding company owned by billionaire Ira Rennert.

So, what does Renco “hold” exactly? Below we look at a few of its companies—US Magnesium, Doe Run Company, and AM General.

US Magnesium
Renco purchased US Magnesium, which bills itself as the “world leader in the production and marketing of primary magnesium products,” in 1989. In 2001, the U.S. Department of Justice named it the nation’s worst polluter.

Doe Run Company and Doe Run Peru SRL
The Guardian reported in 2007 that the Environmental Protection Agency has listed lead smelter and Renco subsidiary the Doe Run Company as the worst air polluter in the United States for 13 years, and La Oroya, Peru, home of Doe Run Peru, was named by the Blacksmith Institute as one of the 10 most polluted places on Earth, alongside the site of the Chernobyl nuclear meltdown. A study by St. Louis University researchers found that 97 percent of children in La Oroya suffer from lead poisoning.

While stuck in a disagreement with the Peruvian government over who is liable for the environmental cleanup costs of La Oroya and the legal health claims of the city’s children, Doe Run Peru made a big lobbying push, seeking to get the U.S. Congress on its side in the dispute.

The lobbying push in the end was not successful, but the company did manage to get eight legislators to sign on to a letter urging the U.S. Treasury and State Departments to intervene in favor of the Renco subsidiary. Only a year later, after Doe Run’s lobbying effort died down, four of those eight and many more legislators were taking the opposite stance and advocating against Renco.

Mitt Romney has repeatedly called for fewer EPA regulations on dirty energy companies and Paul Ryan has voted in Congress to weaken the Clean Air Act.

AM General
AM General “designs, engineers, manufactures, supplies and supports specialized vehicles for commercial and military customers,” according to its website. And it was the “original designer and manufacturer of the famous HMMWV (Humvee®) and HUMMER® H1 vehicles, and contract assembler of the H2, MV-1 and Ford Transit Connect Electric“ It was purchased by Renco in 1992, and in 2004, “MacAndrews & Forbes Holdings and the Renco Group announced the formation and capitalization of a new venture to own AM General LLC.”

Or, in other words, as the Romney campaign continues to attack President Obama for his “you didn’t build that” comment about infrastructure and government support, Romney is raking in support from people whose profits come from government contracts. AM General has received billions from the Department of Defense (DoD), based on analysis of press releases available on the DoD website. Here are the contracts the company has received just since 2011:

Amount Date of Contract/Release Announcement Link
$546,464,268 March 4, 2011 U.S. Department of Defense Press Release
$164,426,332 May 9, 2011 U.S. Department of Defense Press Release
$25,187,209 March 16, 2011 U.S. Department of Defense Press Release
$199,835,000 August 2, 2011 U.S. Department of Defense Press Release
$195,156,024 July 25, 2011 U.S. Department of Defense Press Release
$41,913,084 February 13, 2012 U.S. Department of Defense Press Release
$53,100,000 July 9, 2012 U.S. Department of Defense Press Release
$13,473,165 May 16, 2012 U.S. Department of Defense Press Release
$130,943,210 August 29, 2011 U.S. Department of Defense Press Release
$6,939,080 December 7, 2011 U.S. Department of Defense Press Release
$12,777,829  February 4, 2011 U.S. Department of Defense Press Release

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While Rennert has yet to donate directly to Romney’s 2012 campaign, he and Renco are major players when it comes to campaign contributions to American politicians and lobbying expenses, according to our analysis of data from the Center for Responsive Politics. Executives with Renco have given over $1.8 million in campaign contributions since 2000, including more than $725,000 by Rennert himself. On top of that, Renco and its subsidiaries have spent $4.57 million lobbying Congress since 2001, much of which concerns its military contracts for Humvees.

So far in 2012, the company has spent $295,000 on lobbying. At least two of those lobbyists—former Congressman Jim McCrery with Capitol Counsel and Jim Saxton with Jim Saxton LLC have each donated $2,500 directly to Romney’s campaign.

Oh, and, Rennert annoys his neighbors by flying a really big helicopter from his home in Manhattan to his 110,000-square foot home in the Hamptons.