This Super Rich Trump Donor Just Got a $300 Million Contract to Restore Puerto Rico’s Power | 22 Words

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.

This news came as a surprise to many, as Whitefish Energy Holdings had only two full-time employees when Hurricane Maria touched down on the small American island.

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.

Keep in mind, Puerto Rico's grid was already failing before the storm. It'll take at least six months to repair, and $300 million is an exorbitant sum for an island already on the verge of bankruptcy.

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.

The private-equity firm that finances Whitefish is led by Joe Colonnetta, who has donated at least $55,000 the Trump campaign. 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.

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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.

He 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.

In other words, it's like hiring a call center to call your pizza guy to get you pizza. Vega Ramos explains, “Whitefish seems to be nothing more than a glorified middleman to get the real providers of the services, with which PREPA [the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority] could have contracted directly. It is a cozy sweetheart deal in which Whitefish gets a gratuity for subcontracting the actual providers."

So again we can't call this corruption, but...

If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck – in this day and age, it's actually a banana...