A billboard attacking Pennsylvania Republican gubernatorial nominee Scott Wagner is a bit cryptic on its surface.
It reads: "Scott Wagner's Penn Waste sued 6,979 Pennsylvanians. Learn why."
- "Penn Waste has a track record of using strong-arm tactics to win contracts and bully customers."
- "Penn Waste has been repeatedly cited for violating state environmental regulations."
- "Will these result in unnecessary legal risk for municipalities and individuals who contract with Penn Waste?"
Then the purpose of the billboard becomes a bit clearer. Wagner has been criticized before over how he runs his trash disposal and recycling outfit — and also for filing lawsuits sometimes against customers who don't pay their bills, the paper said.
One instance involved a member of the York County Sheriff's office showing up at a home and taking inventory of the property for an eventual sale, the Daily Record reported, adding that it was over an unpaid trash bill to Penn Waste.
The total owed? About $160, the paper said.
The Daily Record reported that Penn Waste filed at least 263 writs of execution on personal property in 2016 and through April 2017 — and that most of the bills were between $150 and $250.
Who's behind the billboard?
PA Spotlight — an advocacy group that tilts Democratic, the paper said — is paying for the aforementioned billboard. Four more like it were set to go up in other areas, PennLive said.
"PA Spotlight believes it's important to bring all aspects of Scott Wagner's business record at Penn Waste to light," the group's executive director Eric Rosso added to PennLive. "The intimidation and aggressive tactics are deeply concerning for working families and municipalities that contract with Penn Waste."
"This is not a normal business tactic," executive director of PA Spotlight Eric Russo wrote in a May column for the Daily Record. "In fact, according to the investigation, no other garbage removal company uses these practices in the operating area."
What did Wagner's campaign have to say?
"Independent fact checkers have noted that Scott's record of regulatory compliance is in accordance with industry averages," Wagner campaign spokesman Andrew Romeo told TheBlaze in a statement. "PennWaste is required by their contracts with municipalities to continue to make collections regardless of whether the company receives timely payment, so lawsuits are sometimes necessary in order to make sure customers pay their bills."
Romeo added to TheBlaze, "Scott has always said that government should never spend more money than it takes in, and that's how his business runs as well."
The Daily Record noted that when Wagner ran for state Senate in 2014, a political flier featured a woman blasting him as a "bully."
Penn Waste sued that woman — Clara Palmer of Springettsbury Township — over unpaid trash bills, the paper reported in 2004. Palmer was 84 years old at the time, the Daily Record said.
But Wagner didn't seem concerned about the flier, the paper noted, adding that he said most people know he's in business and realize he'd be out of business pretty quickly if he didn't collect fees.
In fact, Wagner told the Daily Record back then that the flier is "helping me." Indeed, Wagner won the state Senate seat.
How the new billboards will affect Wagner's campaign to unseat incumbent Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf remains to be seen.