Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting has done an outstanding job reporting the conflicts of interest endemic through the proliferation of industrial wind turbine farms. The Maine Citizens Task Force has published on its website a compilation and links to articles.
|January 28, 2012 NY TimesEx-Congressman Retreats on Energy ProjectBy ERIC LICHTBLAUWASHINGTON — A former congressman who became a lobbyist has abandoned his plans to collect $90,000 from working on an energy project that he helped finance through Congress.
The former congressman, Bill Delahunt of Massachusetts, told officials in Hull, Mass., this week that he would do the consulting work at no charge rather than collect $15,000 a month as planned. The decision was first reported in The Boston Globe.
An apologetic Mr. Delahunt told town officials he wanted to eliminate the “black mark” created by questions of a possible financial conflict, Patrick Cannon, chairman of the Hull Light Board, said on Saturday.
“This was a great decision for the town, because it saves us a lot of money,” Mr. Cannon said.
Mr. Delahunt, a Democrat who retired from Congress last year, had faced criticism for the last week from legal and ethics specialists over the unusual lobbying arrangement he had struck with the town, which is seeking federal help to build an offshore wind energy plant at a cost of more than $60 million.
While in Congress, Mr. Delahunt earmarked $1.7 million for the same project, and he was to be paid 80 percent of his monthly consulting fees out of that same pot of money.
Experts on Congressional earmarks said they could think of no previous case in which a former congressman stood to profit so directly from money that he personally allocated while in Congress.
Both Mr. Delahunt’s lobbying organization, the Delahunt Group, and the Town of Hull had defended the planned contract, saying that Mr. Delahunt brought an expertise and familiarity with the wind energy project that could help move it along.
Mr. Delahunt and executives at his firm did not respond to e-mails Saturday seeking further comment on the decision.
The Energy Department, which provided the original $1.7 million in seed money through Mr. Delahunt’s earmarks, said this week that its contracting officials were reviewing his role in the wind project.
The general counsel’s office, which normally reviews ethical and legal questions in contracting work, is not involved in that review, said Bill Gibbons, an Energy Department spokesman.
It is not clear how Mr. Delahunt’s decision to provide his consulting services on a pro bono basis will affect the Energy Department’s review. A department spokesman had no immediate comment on the decision.
From Friends of Maine Mountains:
Stacey Fitts, co-chair of the Joint Standing Committee on Energy, Utilities and Technology, works for Kleinschmidt Associates, an engineering, licensing, environmental service firm offering specialized technical services to the renewable industry.
Co-Chair Fitts was quoted in the February 7, 2011 Sun-Journal as saying “Everyone wants to find the conflict, the snake in the grass. But every legislator in the building is conflicted if you were to take that same standard and apply it to everyone else. It’s the nature of being part-time legislators.”
But what happens when the legislator’s employer actively approves of its employee’s work as a legislator and perhaps encourages such legislative endeavors to exceed simple part-time work? As can be seen above, Kleinschmidt’s website brazenly boasts, “we have been very active in the development of state regulations in Maine where one of Kleinschmidt’s engineers is a member of the Governor’s Ocean Energy Task Force.
The following is the definition of Conflict of Interest from the Maine Government website:
“The Legislative Ethics Law lists several situations involving a conflict of interest. These include situations in which a Legislator or a member of the Legislator’s immediate family has a unique and distinct interest in legislation, or accepts or engages in employment that could impair the Legislator’s judgment. In some cases, a conflict can exist if the employer or client of a Legislator — or another person or organization in close economic association with the Legislator — has a direct financial interest in legislation.”
Other possible conflicts on this committee:
Jon Hinck is married to Juliet Browne who is a lawyer and partner at Verill Dana whose main practice deals with the defense of wind power companies .She has been extremely busy in the past few years representing wind developers on the local level, before Maine DEP ,and LURC and defending the companies in numerous appeals and lawsuits . She has represented First Wind, TransCanada and Independence Wind and is quite possibly the wind industry’s leading attorney in Maine.
Alex Cornell du Houx, an avid supporter of wind power, is the outreach coordinator of the Truman National Security Project. This organization states a deep philosophical belief that climate change is a national security threat. On that subject one of their position papers includes the following statement concerning the threat of climate change to our country’s national security, “Even if you do not have complete information, you still need to take action! Waiting for 100% certainty during a crisis can be disastrous.” That sounds awfully like, “Shoot first then ask questions “. A sister organization of the Truman National Security Project is Operation Free, where Mr. Du Houx serves as Campaign Director. Operation Free lists as its first core motivational principal “get America running on clean energy”. In fact, the organization’s logo prominently features industrial wind turbines.