You ever see something that looks so startlingly like corruption, it's on the tip of your tongue to call it corruption, except you can't because you would be speculating even though it looks very, very, very much like corruption?
Well, this is one of those times.
Last week, a small electric utility company in Montana called Whitefish Energy Holdings announced that it had been awarded a $300 million contract to restore electricity to Puerto Rico.
Normally, when a large-scale natural disaster like Hurricane Maria occurs, power companies make arrangements with other utility companies.As NPR explains, "The American Public Power Association, of which PREPA is a member, organizes a network of state and regional public power utilities to restore electricity quickly..." "That's what happened in Texas after Harvey, and in Florida following Irma. The day after Irma's departure, Florida Power & Light said it had more than 20,000 workersfrom 30 states and Canada deployed to restore power."
But this did not happen after Hurricane Maria. Instead, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) directly hired Whitefish.
Even stranger, Whitefish is only two years old. Why would Puerto Rico hire such a new company, and for such a large sum? The answer may lie in Whitefish's leadership.According to the Daily Beast, "Colonnetta contributed $20,000 to the Trump Victory PAC during the general election, $2,700 to Trump’s primary election campaign (then the maximum amount permitted), $2,700 to Trump’s general election campaign (also the maximum), and a total of $30,700 to the Republican National Committee in 2016 alone."
As if that isn't squint-worthy enough, Colonetta is close friends with Trump administration Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. Whitefish is even stationed in Zinke's hometown.According to NPR, PREPA's chief executive officer Ricardo Ramos said the contract was all about timing. "We knew there was going to be a direct hit, so we wanted as much resources as possible. [Whitefish's] name popped up on several fronts." Still, people weren't convinced...
Luis Vega-Ramos, a member of the Puerto Rico House of Representatives, had questions about the deal.told the Daily Beast, “Whitefish’s most important expertise or assets seems to have been… having the U.S. secretary of the interior, Ryan Zinke, as their former congressman and current ally and having the wisdom to retain the services of key people close to the governor [of Puerto Rico]."
Even worse, Whitefish isn't actually restoring the grid. It's acting like a middleman to subcontract utilities, which again, should have just been directly contracted by Puerto Rico.
So again we can't call this corruption, but...
I am disgusted. What is happening in Puerto Rico is a national disgrace. https://t.co/8iYoXYoplz— Dan Rather (@Dan Rather)1508871195.0