Yet another in the series of reports on ties between financial supporters of Donald Trump and beneficiaries of federal government spending. There’s also an Arkansas connection.
Tucson.com reports on a Canadian steel baron Barry Zekelman’s lobbying of Trump for steel tariffs and a contribution of $1.75 million to a pro-Trump super PAC. His business, Atlas Tube, is supplying steel for a huge border wall contract in Arizona, a project in which Trump intervened to help a bidder originally rejected for work on the project.
The Arkansas angle:
Atlas Tube was founded in Ontario, Canada, in 1984, according to the company’s website, and has steel mills in Ontario; Chicago; Birmingham, Alabama; Blytheville, Arkansas; and Plymouth, Missouri. The company claims to be the “largest structural steel tubing producer in North America.”
All Atlas Tube products supplied for border wall construction are produced at the company’s facilities in the United States, according to a statement from Atlas Tube provided by Jelani Rucker, vice president of business development at Zekelman Industries. The words “Made in the USA” are stamped onto the bollards on Organ Pipe, along with the bollards’ dimensions and dates, such as “6/18/2019” or “8/23/2019.”
Rucker did not respond to a request for comment about the political donations and Zekelman’s comments in the Parnas recording.
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced in July that Atlas Tube would build a second steel mill in Blytheville after a Supreme Court decision the previous week allowed the Trump administration to fund the border wall.
Hutchinson touted the wall project when a Zekelman plant expansion was announced for Blytheville last year. The project will qualify for significant state subsidies for the project, which was said to add 75 jobs.
UPDATE: Zekelman sent this comment Wednesday:
”Max, sorry to disappoint you but the new expansion won’t even be producing until mid to late 2021, it will also only produce 8 inch square and larger sizes, these are not used in the border fence. The contracts we are servicing are with independent contractors who we had to win competitive bids with. Nucor also is supplying fence tube as are many other US based tubing producers. You should also know we supplied over 100 miles of fence in 2009 to the Obama administration. Steel produced in Arkansas, Tubing produced in Arkansas, great paying jobs and millions of dollars of taxes paid in Arkansas. I guess we are just horrible people! NOT
He elaborated when I asked about Hutchinson’s mention of the wall work at the expansion announcement:
”He said the plant is running and producing the border fence and will be producing the fence which is all true, we bid new portions all the time, we win some sections and lose some sections. Maybe he thought the new machine would be involved but it is not, it’s physically not possible of running any of those sizes and won’t be running until next July/ aug, fence will be long done.”
FURTHER UPDATE: To clarify any potential misunderstanding in my compression of the Arizona article primarily to illustrate the relationship between a political contributor and government spending:
The steel made by Atlas Tube is part of the section of wall being built by Southwest Valley Constructors on Organ Pipe and part of Cabeza Prieta. This is NOT the section of the wall that is under review by the DOD inspector general due to the accusation President Trump inappropriately intervened. That is a separate contract awarded to Fisher Sand and Gravel.