Waste Management stint trashed from guv's bio

Posted: June 29, 2011

IN THE REALITY-BASED world, there's not much confusion about how Gov. Corbett spent most of his time between the end of a fill-in gig as Pennsylvania attorney general in 1997 and his 2004 run for that job.

For four years, Corbett worked as an attorney and spokesman for the nation's largest trash-hauling and disposal firm, Waste Management Inc., in which he advocated for his employer to dump massive amounts of out-of-state garbage in Pennsylvania.

But now that Corbett is governor, his official state biography tells a different story.

His stint flacking for Waste Management has been tossed down what writer George Orwell famously called "the memory hole." Instead, Corbett's years in the private sector are described in a way that would cause a casual reader to infer that Corbett started a law practice in 1997 that in fact didn't exist until five years later.

Corbett's press aides didn't return phone calls last week.

The governor's bio now states:

"In 1997, Corbett again returned to private practice, forming his own law firm, Thomas Corbett and Associates, which specialized in consultation and government relations. He continued that private practice until his election as Pennsylvania Attorney General in November 2004."

Giving a deposition under oath in March 2010 in a case brought by a whistle-blower who worked under Corbett in the Attorney General's Office, Corbett testified that he launched Tom Corbett and Associates - actually a solo practice - in April 2002 and closed it in late 2003 to run for attorney general.

He testified that after working for a time for a Pittsburgh law firm, he took a position in April 1998 as associate general counsel for government affairs, eastern region, for USA Waste, which one week later was bought by Waste Management.

"I covered a 14-state region, Maine to Michigan to Virginia," Corbett testified. "Dealt with regulatory agencies within those states, primarily Pennsylvania and Virginia, and also with legislative issues. And managed the lobbyists that had been hired by the preceding . . . entities."

He said he left in early 2002 after a change in management.

During his stint, Corbett often found himself defending the large amount of trash that Waste Management's Pennsylvania landfills accepted from New York and other states in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Corbett's work for Waste Management was an issue in the hotly contested 2004 campaign. His main GOP primary opponent, then-Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce Castor, called Corbett "Forest Dump" and attacked his "dirty ties to the trash industry."

But by the time Corbett ran for governor in 2010, the issue had faded. And now, at least on his official bio, the past of a landfill defender is completely buried.

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