Insider Dealing

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 WASHINGTON — 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.

From: Gary Campbell
Sent: Thursday, December 31, 2009 12:04 PM
Subject: Conflicts of Interest ?
Hello all,
Here’s the long list of conflicts of interest I’ve come across in my research. Some may be illegal but all of them are, in my opinion, unethical. In my book, if there is so much as an ‘appearance’ of conflict, that individual is ethically bound to recuse himself from having any sway or power in the decision making.
This is not my original research, it is just the cases that I’ve gathered from various emails, websites, newspaper articles, etc. Some have to do with industrial wind projects, some have to do with Moosehead development, but all lead to the same conclusion: the mechanism in Augusta that the citizens of Maine count on to protect our interests is broken. In fact, it’s worse than broken, it’s been redesigned to work AGAINST our interests.
You no doubt are aware of many of these instances, but when you see them all in a list, it’s quite amazing. Here it is:
  1. Until the fact became public, Plum Creek CEO, President and Executive Director, Rick R. Holley, sat on the board of Maine’s largest newspaper group, Blethen Corporation. He did not disclose this until he was found out. At the time Blethen owned The Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram, The Kennebec Journal (Augusta), The Morning Sentinel (Waterville) as well as other media products in Maine. (It’s interesting to note that Blethen was bought by a group of investors which includes Robert Baldacci, our Governor’s older brother. The groupapproached the Maine Public Employees Retirement System to try to convince them to invest Maine pension funds in the deal.)
  2. According to their website, “The Maine Freedom of Information Coalition is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) corporation representing individuals and organizations committed to open access to public information in print, electronic and digital formats. The Coalition involves media representatives, attorneys, librarians,  state and local government officials, educators and others who care about transparency in government, information access and the role of an informed citizenry in a democracy”. The President of the Maine Freedom of Information Coalition is Mal Leary. And just by coincidence., Leary also runs the press service that the Governor uses (http://www.mainecapitolnews.com/).
  3. The Executive V.P. and Chief Development Officer of First Wind is Kurt Adams. The same Kurt Adams who used to be Chairman of the Maine Public Utilities Commission, the State’s primary utilities regulator. Prior to that, he was Governor John Baldacci’s chief legal counsel.
  4. Governor Baldacci appointed former Governor Angus King to the Wind Power Task Force. He’s also one of the two partners in Independence Wind LLC.
  5. First Wind’s Vice President for Mergers and Acquisitions is Angus King. No, not the former Governor. His son! A Vice President at First Wind has a father on the Governor’s Wind Power Task Force!
  6. Ernie Hilton testified for the CMP power line upgrade on 12/10/09. That upgrade will allow the industrial wind power developers to sell electricity out of state. His wife is LURC commissioner Gwen Hilton. (http://www.hyltunfarm.com/contact/contact.php   http://www.maine.gov/tools/whatsnew/index.php?topic=lurcstaff&id=8260&v=tplcombio)
  7. Marcia Spencer-Famous, the Senior Planner at LURC who oversees industrial Wind Project approvals is married to biologist Norm Famous. Norm Famous is, well, infamous for stating that they “found no bats on Vinalhaven” (Downeast Magazine). Famous helped clear the way for the Vinalhaven wind turbines that are now torturing the poor residents?
  8. Barry Hobbins co-chairs the Right to Know Advisory Committee and the Commission to Study Energy Infrastructure.  He is also a member of the Governor’s Ocean Energy Task Force. (http://www.mainesenate.org/hobbins/bio.htm)
  9. The Governor’s Wind Power Task Force produced Public Law 661, best known as the expedited Wind Permit Statute. Portland Rep. John Hinck, House chair of the Energy Committee, helped ram the Expedited Wind Permit statute into law as “Emergency” legislation. His wife, Juliet Browne was a member of the Task Force.
  10. The Governor’s legal adviser, Karla Black, sits on the State of Maine Right to Know Committee (http://www.mfoic.org/index.asp?mid=71).
  11. The Director of Maine’s Center for Disease Control, Dora Mills, refuses to acknowledge peer reviewed evidence of wind turbines’ negative effects on human health. Her sister is Maine’s Attorney General Janet Mills. AG Mills refuses to ask the wind developers to sign a Code of Conduct the way her counterpart in NY, AG Andrew Cuomo did.
  12. Stacy Fitts is a member of both the Governor’s Wind Task Force and his Ocean Energy Task Force. He’s also Senior Engineer at energy consultant Kleinschmidt Associates. In fact, , a company that is extremely interested in wind subsidies and prides itself in the fact that it has someone on the inside in the Ocean Energy Task Force?  In fact, on their website (http://www.kleinschmidtusa.com/MarineRenewable/default.htm) Kleinschmidt 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.”
  13. Maine State Representative for District 11 is Everett McLeod Sr. Among the towns he represents are: Burlington, Lee, Winn and Mattawamkeag. According to documents recorded, Rep McLeod is leasing some of his land to First Wind for their Rollins Project. The Rollins Project includes Burlington, Lee, Winn and Mattawamkeag. State Rep McLeod also represents the unorganized territories that are home to First Wind’s Stetson Mtn and Jimmey/Owl Mtn Projects. But wait, there’s more! He also represents Carroll Plantation where First Wind is planning to put turbines on Bowers Mtn.
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