Maine’s Energy King

Former company of liberal ‘independent’ Senate candidate Angus King received federal cash grant in June

Angus King / Wikimedia Commons
September 19, 2012

A scandal-ridden wind energy project co-founded by liberal "independent" Maine senate candidate Angus King received more than $33 million in cash under the 1603 program of the economic stimulus in June, according to the U.S. Treasury.

This is not the only federal money the project has received. The Record Hill wind project was created in 2011 by King’s former company, Independence Wind, and funded by a controversial $102 million federal Department of Energy (DOE) loan guarantee.

That initial loan guarantee later became the subject of a congressional oversight investigation, the Washington Free Beacon reported in March. Investigators concluded that the Record Hill project passed off existing technologies as "innovative" in order to secure the federal loan.

King divested himself from Independence Wind in March, two days after the company received a letter notifying it of the congressional investigation.

The $33,746,709 cash grant went to Record Hill on June 8.

The Section 1603 cash grant program was created by President Obama’s 2009 stimulus act to provide "renewable energy project developers a one-time cash payment."

The new revelations raise further questions about the federal government’s involvement in the Record Hill project.

"If [Record Hill] is getting grants to augment a loan, then either they need the grants or they don’t. If they need them, it indicates a financial problem," said Jason Savage, executive director of the nonpartisan advocacy group Maine People Before Politics.

"If [Record Hill] is receiving grants it doesn’t need, then that speaks to very badly misplaced priorities in government spending, and a cronyism that I don’t think we should support in government," Savage added.

King’s former business partner Robert Gardiner, with whom King designed the Record Hill project, told a local reporter that Record Hill is "no Solyndra."

"We’re not defaulting at all. We’re paying back our loan." Gardiner said to the Portland Press Herald. "Based on how it’s working, there is absolute certainty that we will pay off our loan"

Independence Wind appears to have had sufficient funds to pay for the entire cost of the Record Hill project, even without the $33 million in cash grants or even the original $102 million loan.

Record Hill "maintained a bank account showing more than $127 million in private funding before the [$102 million loan] guarantee was negotiated," according to Wind Power Monthly.

Record Hill’s initial loan application was supported by one of King’s powerful Democratic backers in Congress.

Democratic Maine congresswoman Chellie Pingree wrote a letter dated April 5, 2010, to the executive director of the DOE Loan Programs Office supporting the project.

"I am pleased to write in support of Record Hill Wind’s grant application to DOE’s Innovative Technology Federal Loan Guarantee Program, reference number DE-FOA-0000140. … I urge the Department of Energy to look favorably on this request," Pingree wrote.

Pingree’s husband Donald Sussman is the top Democratic donor in the state of Maine and the owner of Maine’s largest media company, which has taken a strong pro-King line in the 2012 U.S. Senate race. King and Sussman are close personal friends who have vacationed together in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

"Chellie Pingree is friends with Angus King, and she wrote a letter supporting the project. That’s very troubling," Savage said.

A spokeswoman for the King campaign declined to comment.

Independence Wind did not return a request for comment.