February 1, 2012

Ex-congressman retreats on energy project

By ERIC LICHTBLAU, The New York Times, www.nytimes.com 28 January 2012

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.

URL to article:  https://www.wind-watch.org/news/2012/02/01/ex-congressman-retreats-on-energy-project/