Shepstone Management Company, Inc.
A troubling pattern of donations to Sen. Andy Dinniman campaigns raises question of whose special interests he’s representing against Mariner East pipelines.
Pennsylvania Senator “Absent” Andy Dinniman is a caricature of the classic politician who pompously talks about the people’s interests. But, is that who he’s really representing when he’s out there on the hustings pontificating against the Mariner East pipeline projects? One wonders.
There’s a very strange pattern of donations to Dinniman campaigns, all of which can be examined by accessing the Pennsylvania Department of State Campaign Finance Online Reporting site. What’s strange is It appears Absent Andy Dinniman has a very special relationship with a commercial/residential developer by the name of the Hankin Group, which operates in his district.
The Hankin Group, in fact, in February of this year, filed a lawsuit against Sunoco, the Mariner East owner, asking a judge to force Sunoco off four of its properties where the pipeline was being constructed. This lawsuit, coincidentally or not so coincidentally, came right after Absent Andy Dinniman announced Sunoco’s temporary easements related to the construction would be expiring at several sites throughout Chester County.
Hankin Group was the second highest contributor to Andy Dinniman’s between 2014 and 2018, donating $29,500 to the ongoing campaign. Just two months before the lawsuit was announced, the Hankin Group provided Dinniman with an additional $1,000. The Hankin Group, in fact, has donated nearly $80,000 to Dinniman’s career as a state senator.
Although the Hankin Group seems to be playing on both sides of the political street more recently, it appears to have only donated to Republican candidates and PACs during the 2016 election cycle, aside from Dinniman’s campaign. The Republican Committee of Chester County, in fact, received $7,500 from the Hankin Group in the 2016 election cycle. Outside Dinniman, this was the most money the Hankin Group donated in the election cycle.
A review of donations from the Hankin Group and Dinniman’s activism raises additional questions about the timing of some events. For instance, two months after Andy Dinniman was named to the Pennsylvania Pipeline Infrastructure Task Force, Hankin Group donated $10,900 to Friends of Andy Dinniman, its second-largest single donation to the elected official.
Dinniman first advocated for tighter pipeline regulations on September 9, 2011, using social media. In a tweet, Absent Amdy noted “It’s time to tighten natural gas pipeline regulations,” linking to an editorial in the Pocono Record. A mere six days later, the Hankin Group donated $13,815 to the Friends of Andy Dinniman, according to the public records.
Dinniman also joined environmental leaders, on August 10, 2012, to raise questions about a natural gas pipeline across the east branch of the Brandywine Creek in downtown Downington, Pensylvania. Absent Andy proclaimed the conversation must address “the public-health, environmental and quality-of-life issues” about the pipeline. Two months before, he had supported extending the public comment period for the pipeline. Between August and December 2012, the Hankin Group donated $9,891 to the Friends of Andy Dinniman.
Andy cheered the delay of the pipeline in June, 2013, questioning “Is there a way to coordinate these projects in a way that minimizes their impact on Chester County, its residents and its natural resources, instead of simply reacting every time another new pipeline company wants to cross the Brandywine Creek?”
Why is this important? Because, just a year later, the Hankin Group bought 240 acres in Downington. A few years later the Hankin Group announced the company had plans to revitalize downtown Downington by building 442 apartments, retail space, and even adding a pedestrian bridge connecting Downingtown’s Johnsontown Park with the east bank of the Brandywine Creek, which was the exact location of the proposed pipeline.
It appears the Hankin Group helped secure some of this property, including the site of the former Sonoco Paper Mill plant, with Senate Bill 962, which helped ensure blighted properties are secured. Dinniman proposed this legislation.
So, what do we have here?
- Andy Dinniman received nearly $30,000 in during the 2016 campaign cycle from a developer with a special interest in stopping Mariner East pipeline construction potentially interfering with its own development plans.
- This developer, the Hankin Group has donated has donated nearly $80,000 to Absent Andy Dinniman over the last decade.
- When Andy Dinniman was named to the Pennsylvania Pipeline Infrastructure Task Force in June 2015, the Hankin Group donated $10,900 to Friends of Andy Dinniman. This donation represented 55% of Dinniman’s contributions that election cycle.
- Absent Andy Dinniman received nearly $10,000 from the Hankin Group, which was followed, a couple of years later, by the Hankin Group takinhg advantage of a bill introduced by him to acquire 68 acres in downtown Downington, where it plans to put a footbridge over the spot where the Mariner East was planned.
Is there something rotten in Dinniman land? These are simply the facts. You be the judge. Perhaps Absent Andy will reappear to explain.