Why are so many Texans writing checks in Maine’s governor race?

Maine has seen this before, and of course the pattern is old hat for Kurt Adams. As the Maine Center for Public Interest reported, industrial wind is always eager to extend its tentacles into Maine’s political establishment by liberally spreading money around.

If you’ve wondered why big industrial wind companies always get their way in Maine’s policy decisions, their inexhaustible checkbook is the first place to start looking.
— Rand Stowell, president, Friend's of Maine's Mountains

Adams, former Maine PUC chairman (appointed by Governor John Baldacci) and now an executive at First Wind, is clearly comfortable with the idea larding the political landscape with thousands of dollars, otherwise he wouldn't have allowed First Wind to recruit him while he was still serving at the Maine PUC. If anything, he's even more enthusiastic now about playing the big money game. Consider that on August 15, 2013, Maine 2nd District Congressman Mike Michaud announced his candidacy for Governor. Yet weeks before, even before that summer began, Adams had already “maxed out” on the Michaud for Maine campaign.

CLICK TO ENLARGE, DOWNLOAD: Kurt Adams has played a key role injecting thousands of dollars from industrial wind speculators into Maine's gubernatorial campaign.

CLICK TO ENLARGE, DOWNLOAD: Kurt Adams has played a key role injecting thousands of dollars from industrial wind speculators into Maine's gubernatorial campaign.

“Maxing out” is slang for donating the most amount of money allowable by law. In fact, almost a year and a half before this November’s general election, Adams donated the maximum $1500 to Michaud’s uncontested primary campaign and another $1500 to his presumed 2014 general election campaign. More curious is the amount of industrial wind money – much of it from far outside Maine -- that has landed in Michaud’s war chest.

Why are big money Texans so interested in Maine?

Campaign contributions do not guarantee political favor; many big donors have historically hedged their bets by donating across party lines to both – or all – candidates in a race. But an investigation into campaign financing documents implies that industrial wind companies clearly have a favorite candidate to be Maine's next Governor, whose ear they dearly hope to have.

For example, employees of Houston-based EDP Renewables hosted a Fort Kent fundraiser for Michaud during last winter’s Can Am event. At least a dozen EDP people with Texas addresses, including top-level officials like the CEO, donated to Michaud.

A search of the Maine Ethics Commission database for campaign finance reporting showed more non-EDP employees, also with Texas addresses, are so interested in Maine’s gubernatorial race that they became political donors, some for the first time ever in Maine. Or even in Texas. The filings indicate that various consultants, lawyers, and other professionals with connections to EDP are now also connected with Maine politics. Even a New York based EDP lobbyist maxed out on Michaud.

Why are we seeing this Lone Star posse riding into Vacationland? Could it be that EDP wants to grease the skids for what would be Maine’s biggest industrial wind facility, at Number Nine Mountain in Aroostook County?

In, 2011 EDP took over what had been Horizon Energy, which had been planning for a couple of years to build at Number Nine Mountain. But transmission lines from Aroostook County go to Canada, not Boston, Providence and Hartford. So the project has languished on the drawing board.

Last year EDP opened a public relations office in Presque Isle. Opponents of wind energy grew wary when EDP began to revive the dormant project amid talk of friendly utility regulators eager to allow massive transmission expansions that would connect "The County" to New England. With the annual expiration of lucrative federal wind tax credits in Washington, most wind developers in the last few years have sprinted to submit applications under Maine’s Expedited Wind Siting law. But not EDP. They still have not filed an application here.  

“Looks to me like they have picked out which horse they want to ride, and now they're waiting for the results of the November election,” said Rand Stowell, president of Friends of Maine's Mountains (FMM).

First Wind a leader in political donations

Despite the fact that First Wind has incurred multi-million dollar losses since it arrived in Maine, no industrial wind company has inspired more anti-wind sentiment in the state than First Wind of Boston. They have spent over half a billion dollars on six wind projects that have the capability to provide only a fraction of one percent of our system’s electricity. All of First Wind’s projects ultimately are entirely paid for by ratepayers and taxpayers.  First Wind’s high-level sponsorship of Maine Public Broadcasting and Maine Audubon have proved controversial. (FMM has often criticized the company for its liberal spending on public relations measures intended to enhance their image.)

Adams, whose First Wind title is Executive Vice President and Chief Development Officer, made news when it came to light that he had taken an equity interest in First Wind while still serving as Chair of the Maine Public Utilities Commission. He has been on the “Host Committee” for at least two Michaud fundraising parties. 

CLICK TO DOWNLOAD: At left is a copy of the November, 2013 event held at the home of auto dealer Adam Lee. Lee has served on Boards and Advisory Boards for many of the organizations most responsible for promoting wind power: Maine Conservation Voters, Natural Resources Council of Maine, Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, Efficiency Maine Trust, and Maine Audubon. Ordinary voters, the "rank and file," normally don't attend parties like this. So if you don't recognize the names of the "hosts," you might be interested to know that many are prominent industrial wind lobbyists. Specifically:

First Wind Top Execs:

  • Kurt Adams
  • Paul Gaynor
  • Matt Kearns
  • Dave Wilby

Verrill Dana Attorney who does the permitting and litigation for First Wind projects:

  • Juliet Browne

CEO of Reed & Reed, only crane company in the region capable of erecting 500’ turbines:

  • Jackson Parker

Owner of Aroostook County’s Underwood Electric, which does work on wind projects:

  • Terry Kiser

CEO of Maine Drillng & Blasting Inc., which blows up Mountains for turbine pads:

  • Bill Purington

CEO at Sargent Corp., which does site work for wind projects:

  • Herb Sargent

Senior Manager and lobbyist at Sargent Corp.:

  • Steve Perry

Former Maine PUC Commissioner and present executive at North American Power:

  • Sharon Reishus

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Overt attempt to influence the governor's race in Maine

CLICK TO ENLARGE, DOWNLOAD: EDP Renewables knows what it wants from "Governor Mike Michaud."

CLICK TO ENLARGE, DOWNLOAD: EDP Renewables knows what it wants from "Governor Mike Michaud."

EDP’s role in the Fort Kent party for Michaud was just as overt as Adams' and First Wind's fierce fundraising for Michaud, as the invitation at left shows. Critics are concerned that the general public may not understand how high the stakes are for industrial wind companies, who are counting on taxpayer and ratepayer subsidies, which are doled out (or not) by Maine's elected and regulatory authorities.

“Most Mainers have no idea how the wind lobby is trying to influence our government,” said Brad Blake of Citizens Task Force on Wind Power. “They do it at every level. From selectmen in poor rural towns to legislators and the governor. Follow the money and it’s obvious why industrial wind has been able to take this state by storm, even writing their own special law essentially guaranteeing them whatever they want.”

A Closer Look at the Wind Money

FMM researched the campaign finance reports for the three gubernatorial candidates. Their last required filing was in late July. Notable in the numbers:

 Contributions from Texas

  • Cutler, 21 donations, $15,300
  • LePage, 10 donations, $7,825
  • Michaud, 69 donations, $22,066

From Houston

  • Cutler, 6 donations, $5,250
  • LePage, 8 donations, $7,625
  • Michaud, 30 donations, $15,750 

From EDP 

  • Cutler, 0 donations
  • LePage, 0 donations
  • Michaud, 16 donations, $3,850

From EDP associated Interests

  • Cutler, 0 donations
  • LePage, 0 donations
  • Michaud, 10 donations, $9,000

From First Wind

  • Cutler, 3 donations, $1650
  • LePage, 0 donations
  • Michaud, 10 donations, $11,100

From First Wind Associated Interests

  • Cutler, 1 donation, $1500
  • LePage, 0 donations
  • Michaud, 11 donations, $4,350

From Patriot Renewables (Cashman)

  • Cutler, 0 donations
  • LePage, 4 donations, $6,000
  • Michaud, 2 donations, $3,000

Wind Money TOTALS So Far

  • Cutler, $3,100
  • LePage, $6,000
  • Michaud, $31,400

BADLY NEEDED: Transparency & press scrutiny

Stowell advised Maine voters to stay aware of political contributions that could influence Maine's gubernatorial election and post-election policy discussions, particularly from the following list of players in Texas:

Texas law firm Locke Lord Bissell & Lidell has a PAC. According to opensecrets.org the PAC has a record of supporting 71% Republicans and 29% Democrats. They never donated to a Maine politician until they sent $1000 to Michaud for Maine. 

Rene Braud, is a former EDP/Horizon biologist now doing bird studies for another wind developer called Pattern Energy. Her bio says she “has provided leadership on numerous committees in the wind industry…including the American Wind Energy Association…” Braud once gave to a Texas congressional candidate, according to opensecrets.org. Her only other political contribution was to Mike Michaud.

Michael Skelly and Jayshree Desai are President and Executive Vice President of Clean Line Energy Partners in Houston. Desai was at Enron before taking the CFO job at Horizon Wind. She led the sale of Horizon to EDP.  Her company profile says she “has a leading role in developing relationships with Clean Line’s future transmission customers, both load serving entities and wind generators.”

Desrai has never donated to a political candidate until this year when she took an interest in the Maine governor’s race.

Skelly is a former congressional candidate from Texas with very little campaign donation history.

FMM made phone calls to Braud, Desrai, and Skelly asking why the Houston energy players are investing in the Maine Governor’s race. Only PR person Sarah Bray from Clean Line Energy returned our calls, saying that “Mr. Skelly didn’t feel that he would be the best one to talk on that topic so he asked me to just kinda pass this time.”

Alvarez and Marsal is a global business consulting firm based in Houston. A&M Managing Director Richard Holt’s company profile lists his areas of expertise. “Energy” is the first listed. Holt maxed out on Michaud in both the primary and general elections. When FMM asked Holt why he supports Michaud, he said, “We have some friends and connections in Maine and Maine needs a calming force.”

It's all there in black and white.

CLICK TO ENLARGE, DOWNLOAD.

CLICK TO ENLARGE, DOWNLOAD.

ABOVE: first two pages for the names, last two pages for the amounts.

Stowell, FMM’s president, said, “When you dig into the public record it’s hard not be cynical. Our mission is educational, so we think Mainers should know about the dominant role that money plays in industrial wind’s political agenda.”

Beyond that direct contribution of money, much of it coming early in the campaign, it’s possible that ample third party spending from the wind lobby will soon flood the state. These could include the “independent expenditure” mailers and commercials. But many “players” are likely to make contributions to candidates, continuing a trend of massive political spending in Maine by industrial wind companies.

Players and payers to watch

Clean Power PAC

The political action committee of the Maine Renewable Energy Association (MREA), which claims to speak for all renewable generation modes, but in fact devotes almost all of its resources to wind. The PAC has not donated directly to any of this year’s gubernatorial candidates, and it only had about $5000 on hand as of July 22. It raised and spent little in 2010, with no contributions to gubernatorial candidates. It annually gives various donations to legislative “leadership” PACs -- mostly Democratic.

Clean Power PAC has traditionally been funded by its parent, MREA and companies like First Wind, Reed & Reed and Cianbro. Three years ago the PAC was deeply involved in the failed attempt by Maine Citizens for Clean Energy PAC to initiate a ballot question that would have increased Maine’s (already highest in the nation) Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS). Clean Power PAC has very deep pockets, and therefore is a prime candidate to inject very large amounts of money into the gubernatorial race, especially in its late stages.

See Filings Here for Clean Power PAC

Maine Conservation Voters Action Fund

The umbrella group for most of the name-brand environmental organizations is called Maine Conservation Voters (MCV). This is not a wind advocacy group per se, but as noted above, most of its contributing organizations are the most active promoters of wind power in Maine. MCV’s political arm is this PAC, the MCVAF PAC. They have begun airing TV ads directly advocating for Michaud’s election. The PAC uses the GiveGreen (see below) “bundling” model to make large contributions above the “maxed out” limitations that apply to individual donors.

As of September 4 MCVAF has raised and spent over half a million dollars with at least $400,000 buying media. All of the PAC’s expenditures have been reported as either supporting Michaud or opposing LePage. Their reports make no mention of Cutler. 

See Filings Here for MCVAF PAC

givegreenmaine.com

This is the way MCVAF makes what it calls “pass through” contributions to the Michaud campaign. In May it transferred over $12,000 to Michaud. There are no filings for GiveGreen.

Maine Forward PAC

This is a Democratic Party PAC established to elect Michaud. It does not advocate for wind power per se, but in June it received $50,000 from MCVAF. As of September 5 the PAC had spent over $450,000 either for Michaud or against LePage. The reports do not mention Cutler. See Filings Here for Maine Forward Pac.

Maine Citizens for Clean Energy PAC

This is the PAC formed in 2011 to fund the failed signature gathering effort that would have increased Maine’s RPS. It has been terminated, but it could form again. Interestingly, the MCCE PAC was formed by Abbie Reed of Reed & Reed, along with MREA’s Jeremy Payne, Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM) lobbyist Dylan Vorhees. The group burst onto the scene in the fall of 2011 by quickly raising and spending $100,000 to gather statewide signatures. 

MCCE continued to raise lots of money, much of it from the MREA PAC listed above. According to state filings, MCCE closed up shop owing about $50,000 to three organizations that had been hired to run the aborted campaign: Cliff Ginn’s Opportunity Maine, Environment Maine, and Maine People’s Alliance.  After almost a year of languishing in debt, some of it under dispute, MCCE were partially covered by donations from MREA, MCV, and NRCM. When the PAC terminated, it handed its remaining balance (about $5000) to MREA to fund a wind power public relations effort called “Wind For ME.” See Filings for MCCE here.

League of Conservation Voters Washington DC

This is the national parent of MCV.  It uses the GiveGreen bundling method, and this year funneled a quarter million dollars to MCVAF PAC. There are no filings for LCV.

Nextgen Climate Action PAC

Tom Steyer is a wealthy California activist who has pledged to spend $100 million defeating candidates who are “anti-climate.”  The idea is for Steyer to match donations to the PAC on a 1:1 basis, but so far he has matched on a 10:1 basis.  Gubernatorial races in Maine and six other states have been targeted by his national group based in Washington, DC. As of the June 22 filing the Maine PAC had zero funds on hand, but they reported “in-kind” donations from the national parent group: “335 hours of staff time for meetings and planning related to program in Maine.” See NextGen Filings here.

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In May of 2014, FMM released results of the Criticlal Insights Omnibus Poll. Before learning the pros and cons of industrial wind power, more than 75% of Maine people support it. But after learning the truth about wind power, more than 75% of Mainers oppose it. To further its educational mission and promote transparency in the debate about Maine's energy future, Friends of Maine Mountains has compiled this report so that voters will know who is attempting to influence state policy.