HYANNIS – More than a decade into its fight against Cape Wind, the project’s primary opposition group is still raking in millions of dollars in contributions, according to its latest filing with the Internal Revenue Service.
The $2 million in contributions to the nonprofit Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound in 2011, however, doesn’t cover the group’s expenses to date, which include donations to the town of Barnstable to pay the municipality’s Cape Wind-related legal fees.
Although the alliance raised more than $24 million over the past 10 years to fight the proposed Nantucket Sound wind farm, the group was nearly $1 million in debt as of the end of 2011, according to Form 990 for that year filed with the IRS on Thursday.
“The trend is positive,” alliance president and CEO Audra Parker said about a decline in the group’s debt from $1.3 million in 2010 to $914,000 in 2011. “Our goal is to obviously pay it over time.”
The amount raised over the past three years has steadily increased and the amount contributed by donors in 2011 is $300,000 more than the $1.7 million raised by the alliance in 2010.
The past year has been good for the fight against Cape Wind, Parker said, citing a legal victory in federal court that remanded a Federal Aviation Administration approval for the project back to the agency and the denial of a federal loan guarantee for Cape Wind by the U.S. Department of Energy.
The FAA issued a new approval for the project in August that the alliance and the town of Barnstable have again challenged in court.
The group continues to receive strong support for its legal fight against Cape Wind, Parker said.
“We will continue fighting, continue to get the support we need for the legal fight and we will win,” she said.
Although nearly 70 percent, or $1.4 million of the $2 million, in contributions during 2011 came from eight donors, the remainder was from small donors concerned about the project’s costs and other issues, Parker said.
The amount of support in the form of large contributions is in line with the group’s history of being largely funded by a small group of wealthy donors, Cape Wind spokesman Mark Rodgers said.
“We have more of the same as far as about a half-dozen people making the lion’s share of the donations,” Rodgers said.
And, the alliance’s tax forms do not appear to properly account for money the group donated to the town of Barnstable for legal fees to fight the FAA approvals, he said.
The alliance spent $857,039 in 2011 on legal expenses, of which $500,106 was paid to two law firms – Perkins Coie LLP in Washington state and Ayres Law Group in Washington, D.C. – according to the tax forms.
The forms do not outline how the remainder of those legal fees was allocated.
Sections on the IRS form where organizations should list grants to governments, organizations or individuals are blank. However, invoices provided by the town of Barnstable’s finance department reflect $175,000 received from the alliance and paid to the law firm of Kaplan, Kirsch and Rockwell LLP from March through December 2011.
In recent Form 990 filings, at least $355,000 donated to the town of Barnstable over the past several years has been included in a more general category for legal fees, Parker said.
“It’s a legal expense that we’re paying so it falls into legal,” she said.
IRS spokeswoman Peggy Riley declined to comment on the question of where a nonprofit organization must include donations that are then spent on legal expenses and referred a Times reporter to the instructions for filing Form 990s.
“From my perspective the alliance’s lack of transparency here continues their record of hiding the ball on who’s calling the shots and who’s paying the bills to thwart Cape Wind,” said Sue Reid, vice president and director of the Conservation Law Foundation Massachusetts, a vocal proponent of the project.
Cape Wind has sold more than 75 percent of the power it expects to generate from the 130 turbines the company wants to build in Nantucket Sound. Although Cape Wind has secured all of its required permits, the project still faces legal challenges from the alliance and other opponents, and the company has yet to announce how it will be financed.
The company has already spent more than $50 million on permitting and other aspects of the project, which is expected to cost more than $2.6 billion to build.
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