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The Freedom Foundation: Post-Janus

Public records reveal shocking pattern of environmental recklessness by homebuilder Conner Homes

In October, we announced that we would be doing a sweeping public records request regarding Charlie Conner, one of the leaders of the anti-worker Freedom Foundation (Opt Out Today). In addition to guiding the Freedom Foundation’s failed assault on working people in Washington, Charlie also owns Conner Homes, a residential development company based in Bellevue.  

We’ve scoured thousands of emails and permits between Conner Homes and the staff of local communities where Conner has been building across Western Washington, and what we’ve discovered in Conner’s track record is disturbing, and even dangerous. Building homes over industrially poisoned land, slashing acres of beloved neighborhood trees and allowing spills into protected wetland habitat are just a few of the shocking events we’ve uncovered.

We have also generated a list of all active and future Conner Homes projects, based on our public records requests and state registrations. Following, is the letter of warning that we will be sending to all residents near current and future Conner Homes projects as well as officials involved in the building process.

Dear neighbor,

We can all agree that our neighborhoods are precious, and we are writing to you about protecting yours. This letter is a warning that a home builder with a track record of environmental recklessness will be coming to your neighborhood soon, if they are not there already. That developer’s name is Conner Homes.

When developers come to your neighborhood, you can expect traffic jams, road closures, truck exhaust, construction noise and dusty air. When Conner Homes comes to build in your neighborhood, you may be in for much more.

Our organization just completed a search of all city and county building records by Conner Homes in the last five years, and we felt it imperative to prepare people like you, who may be impacted soon. Here’s what you need to know about Conner Homes’ history of environmental negligence in neighborhoods just like yours:

  • Willingness to build on poisoned ground:  We all want to live in a home where we know that our children and pets are safe from industrial poisons, yet Conner Homes knowingly built a Renton subdivision on land that was poisoned from years of arsenic use.  At the time of building, Charlie Conner (owner of Conner Homes) admitted that arsenic levels were still at 300 parts per billion, which scientists have determined can result in a range of ailments, including skin discoloration, stomach ache and diarrhea.  Additionally, Conner’s property was near a Superfund site, whose land was soaked with years of creosote, a noxious lumber sealant.
  • Clear-cutting neighborhood trees: The trees on our streets provide shade, character and habitat, but Conner Homes has shocked neighbors with massive losses of tree cover at his developments.  In the town of Sammamish, citizens were outraged when Conner cleared 45 acres of beloved neighborhood woods, leading to neighbor protests at the work site.  The woods were a protective buffer to adjacent Lake Sammamish and its rare run of spawning kokanee salmon.  The city had passed a new more restrictive tree ordinance before the Conner Homes clear-cut, but Conner Homes decided to disregard the ordinance because the ordinance passed after their initial permit to build was filed. Clearly choosing the company’s convenience over neighborhood welfare.  
  • Spilling worksite debris into neighborhood wetlands and streams: Our wetlands are an essential habitat for wildlife, and a crucial filtration system for a healthy Puget Sound, yet Conner Homes has shown disregard for their protection while building.  In the town of Edgewood, a washout from Conner’s construction site carried fill material into an adjacent sensitive natural area. Conner Homes’ overflow of imported fill material altered the channel of a stream, as well as inundating a wetland and its protective buffer. It took Conner Homes more than a year to attempt a mitigation of this event.

If, like us, you cherish the sanctity and benefits of the natural beauty of your neighborhood, it is not too late to act and protect yourselves from Conner Homes’ destructive behavior. We urge you to talk with your neighbors and contact your city council members, to demand caution and careful government oversight in all phases of Conner Homes’ projects in your neighborhood.

 

In solidarity,

Your friends at the Northwest Accountability Project

Read more about Conner’s arsenic-laced building site.

Read more about Conner’s clear-cutting of neighborhood woods.

 

Bob Wickers’ Far-Right Rolodex

Do you have what it takes to work at the Freedom Foundation? With his history of working for clients who fight against workers’ rights, Bob Wickers does.  A long-time political consultant to the Far-Right, he’s also the new “Vice President of Operations” at the Freedom Foundation.

We’ve written about the exodus of women from Freedom Foundation leadership, and now here’s a closer look into this newest staffer’s history – filled with controversial, dubious, and downright awful clients.  Evidently, just the kind of operative the Freedom Foundation was looking for.

 

The Freedom Foundation and Hate Groups: Fellows in Fundraising

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The Freedom Foundation’s Dinesh D’Souza Problem

The anti-worker Freedom Foundation/Opt Out Today has sunk to a new low by choosing bigoted pundit, Dinesh D’Souza, as the keynote speaker at their annual gala at the Hilton Bellevue in Washington on September 28. The Hilton should show better judgment in who they allow to speak at their facilities. We call on the Hilton to cancel D’Souza’s appearance.

D’Souza has made millions from his racist, homophobic, misogynistic, and anti-working class writings and movies. He has heaped praise on growing income inequality and the strife that working people endure. He opposes the Civil Rights Act, called President Obama a “boy” from “the ghetto”, said that American slaves were treated “pretty well” and African Americans behave differently from other races through negative behavior and dependency. In college, as the editor of the student newspaper, he publicly outed LGBTQ students without their permission.

He is so extreme that even other conservatives dislike him. He was once banned from CPAC (the Conservative Political Action Conference), the annual gathering of Republican ideologues, because he mocked teenage survivors of school shootings. Many conservative thought leaders have accused him of being at the center of the intellectual rot occurring on the right.

When the Freedom Foundation announced D’Souza as the keynote for their fundraiser, Freedom Foundation CEO, Tom McCabe said of D’Souza, he’s “…a perfect fit for the Freedom Foundation.” For once, we agree with McCabe’s assessment.

D’Souza follows 2017 keynote speaker, Andy Puzder. Puzder, as you may recall, is an alleged domestic abuser and accused wage thief who actively opposed minimum increases as CEO of Hardees/Carl Jrs. He was Trump’s first failed nominee for Secretary of Labor.

The anti-worker Freedom Foundation/Opt Out Today has two diametrically opposed messages: what they tell public workers and what they tell their funders.

The Freedom Foundation tries to convince public sector workers that they are better off without their union in the hopes that if enough people drop, the union will cease to exist. They fund this mission by raising money from a who’s who of out-of-state extremist billionaires who would like to see an end to labor unions — including the Koch Brothers, the Walton Family, and the Wisconsin-based Bradley Foundation. This poses a problem for the Freedom Foundation: On the one hand, they need to convince union members that they care about their well-being and on the other hand they need to convince their out-of-state funders that they are actively working to destroy unions, lower wages, and gut pensions.

Nowhere is this conflict more pronounced than their annual fundraising event. It’s why you won’t see any footage of the event or what is likely to be an outrageous and bigoted speech by D’souza and why they pay a private security detail to monitor the event. If the happenings of their gala were to ever reach actual working people, the Freedom Foundation’s lies would be exposed.

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