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Pay to Play Donnelly or Dirty Money Donnelly?

Michael Joyce - February 12, 2018

Yesterday, Chuck Schumer held another fundraiser for Joe Donnelly, this time at the home of Nathan Smith in Ft. Mitchell, Kentucky.

 

This is the second fundraiser Chuck Schumer has held for Joe Donnelly in less than a month’s time. As for Nathan Smith, he has quite the interesting background from being a shady businessman to making questionable contributions to Donnelly’s campaign. Mr. Smith is the Co-Owner of SSK Communities and has made some questionably timed donations to Joe Donnelly’s campaign over the past few years.

If you’re unfamiliar with Nathan Smith, here’s a few things you need to know:

1)Smith is the Co-Owner and Partner of a manufactured home company called SSK Communities.

2)Smith has made a couple of max contributions to Joe Donnelly the same year Joe Donnelly introduced legislation that would benefit Mr. Smith’s company, SSK Communities.

3)Smith’s company, SSK Communities, has a tainted history of wrongful evictions and dumping raw sewage into the Ohio River (see below for more on this).

4)SSK Communities is not accredited with the Better Business Bureau. They’ve had 7 complaints filed against them, in which they failed to respond to 3 of those complaints, and 1 was never resolved.

5)Smith is a Democrat in Kentucky, has served as Jack Conway’s campaign Chairman for Governor, and held fundraisers for Alison Lundergan Grimes and Hillary Clinton over the past few years.

Let’s start with the contributions. Donnelly has introduced the Preserving Access to Manufactured Housing Act of 2015 and the Preserving Access to Manufactured Housing Act of 2017. Mr. Smith made max contributions to Donnelly’s campaign both years, in which Mr. Smith made a max contributions 6 days after the article below was published by an Indiana-based manufactured homes company, expressing Donnelly’s willingness to bring the bill back to the floor in the following legislative session.

According To The FEC, Nathan Smith Donated $5,900 To Donnelly For Indiana. (Federal Election Commission, Accessed 2/6/18)

Aside from the contributions to Donnelly from Mr. Smith, SSK Communities also has a history of wrongful evictions and dumping raw sewage into the Ohio River:

SSK Communities Is Co-Owned By Nathan Smith. “One of SSK’s owners is Nathan Smith, the campaign chairman for Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway’s bid for the governor’s office. The lawsuit, filed by Louisville attorney James Craig, alleges that SSK employed two tactics to force residents out of their homes. It would refuse to renew leases, even if residents were current on their monthly payments, the suit states. And SSK would allegedly evict residents who refused to pay water and sewer bills ‘in some case as high as 10 times a normal bill.’”(James McNair, “Judge’s Ruling Paves Way For Mobile Home Wrongful Eviction Suit,” Kentucky Center For Investigative Reporting, 5/6/15)

SSK Communities Was Involved In A Class-Action Lawsuit For “Unfair Eviction Practices” By Forcing Residents Out Of Their Homes “In Order To Make A Profit.”  “The lawsuit alleges that SSK has violated several portions of the Kentucky Consumer Protection Act, including unfair eviction practices and failing to maintain the infrastructure, resulting in costly water bills for residents. The lawsuit alleges that SSK Communities has forced out people in SSK mobile homes in order to make a profit. ‘These evictions compel residents to abandon mobile homes that they own because the cost to relocate is too high,’ the lawsuit alleges. ‘SSK seizes the abandoned home, releases it to a new tenant at a higher monthly lease or sells it to a new consumer and in the process builds a substantial fortune while displaced families are left homeless,’ the lawsuit alleges.” (Beth Musgrave, “Kentucky’s Mobile Home Owners Can Face Rising Costs, Evictions When Parks change Ownership,” Lexington Herald Leader, 12/20/14)

  • Residents Of SSK-Owned Mobile Parks Sued The Company, “Accusing SSK Of A Self-Enrichment Scheme Of Evicting Residents.” “Sixteen current and former residents of mobile home parks owned by SSK Communities in Kentucky have filed a class-action lawsuit accusing SSK of a self-enrichment scheme of evicting residents, seizing their trailers and renting them to new tenants. The lawsuit, filed Friday in Jefferson County Circuit Court, alleges that SSK’s eviction and water-billing practices violate several state laws, including the Kentucky Consumer Protection Act. It asks the court to stop SSK from refusing to renew leases to ‘force a resident to sacrifice their home.’” (James McNair, “Former Residents Accuse Kentucky Mobile Home Park Operator Of Improper Evictions, Seizures,” Kentucky Center For Investigative Reporting, 10/20/14)
  • SSK Communities Was Sued For Wrongful Eviction After Allegations That SSK “Employed Two Tactics To Force Residents Out Of Their Homes.” “A Jefferson County judge last week refused to throw out a lawsuit alleging that the corporate owner of 17 Kentucky mobile home parks illegally evicted residents, forcing them to abandon trailers that they owned. The lawsuit was filed last October by Virginia Chappell, a former resident of Autumn Lake Pointe in southwest Jefferson County. It accuses Erlanger-based SSK Communities of breach of contract, abuse of process and violations of the Kentucky Consumer Protection Act. Although the suit was filed by 16 current and former residents of SSK-owned parks, it seeks to represent all SSK residents statewide… One of SSK’s owners is Nathan Smith, the campaign chairman for Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway’s bid for the governor’s office. The lawsuit, filed by Louisville attorney James Craig, alleges that SSK employed two tactics to force residents out of their homes. It would refuse to renew leases, even if residents were current on their monthly payments, the suit states. And SSK would allegedly evict residents who refused to pay water and sewer bills ‘in some case as high as 10 times a normal bill.’” (James McNair, “Judge’s Ruling Paves Way For Mobile Home Wrongful Eviction Suit,” Kentucky Center For Investigative Reporting, 5/6/15)

News Report On SSK Communities Lawsuit: (Local 12 News, 12/4/14)

 

SSK Communities Was Ordered To Pay $11,000 In Fines After Accusations That The Company Was Discharging Raw Sewage Into The Ohio River. “The company that owns Ashley Pointe Mobile Home Park in southwest Jefferson County has paid $11,000 in fines and agreed to a corrective action plan to settle state accusations of discharging raw sewage into an Ohio River tributary. SSK Communities, an Erlanger-based company with 22 trailer parks in Kentucky, was cited in September by the Department of Environmental Protection. Samples taken of the overflowing sewage showed 372 times the state’s maximum exposure level of E. coli bacteria, which can cause gastrointestinal illnesses.” (James McNair, “Louisville Mobile Home Park Pays $11,000 Fine For Sewage Discharge Into Waterway,” WFPL, 7/23/15)

  • SSK Has Been Cited Multiple Times For “Discharging Raw Sewage Into A Public Waterway” And The Louisville Metro Department Of Public Health & Wellness Has Tried To Suspend SSK’s Mobile Home Park Permit. “State and county regulators are well aware of the situation. The Louisville Metro Department of Public Health & Wellness has received complaints about the sewage leaks for more than a decade and, in January, tried to suspend Ashley Pointe’s mobile home park permit. The Kentucky Department of Environmental Protection has cited the park twice in the past year for discharging raw sewage into a public waterway… One of 17 Kentucky trailer parks owned by SSK Communities of Erlanger, Ashley Pointe averted a permit suspension by repairing pumps that its says were damaged by residents throwing beach towels, brooms and large toys into manholes. In letters to the state, it denies any creek pollution. But occasional sewage overflows continue, and the two agencies aren’t backing down against SSK, which is owned by a powerful Kentucky Democratic Party fund-raiser. SSK co-owner Nathan Smith is perhaps most recognized as the trailer pitchman waving his arms and jumping around the screen in his company’s TV spots. As a sought-after Democratic rainmaker, he held an event in June for U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes at his home in Fort Mitchell. Among the guests, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.” (James McNair, “As Sewage Spills And Stench Plague Louisville Mobile Home Park, Company On Notice,” Kentucky Center For Investigative Reporting, 8/20/14)

“It’s bad enough that Senator Donnelly is leaning on Chuck Schumer to fill his campaign coffers again for the second time in the past few weeks, but it’s even worse that Donnelly is accepting money from shady businessman Nathan Smith in Kentucky. Donnelly owes an explanation to Hoosiers for taking money from a guy who allegedly kicks low income tenants out of their homes to flip a profit.” –RNC Spokesperson Michael Joyce


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