Cape Wind executives and lobbyists have poured hundreds of thousands of dollars since last year into the campaign coffers of key lawmakers – including more than $50,000 to U.S. Sen. Edward J. Markey – as developers of the controversial offshore wind farm seek nearly $1.3 billion in federal cash and loan guarantees, a Herald review found.
Lawmakers serving on committees overseeing energy and environmental policy and budgets got the bulk of the donations from those with ties to Cape Wind, the $2.6 billion project to install 130 wind turbines in Nantucket Sound, the review found.
Cape Wind President James Gordon last year gave $5,000 to Markey and $2,500 to U.S. Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), federal records show.
In total, Markey, who serves on the Committee on Environment and Public Works, scored more than $50,000 in campaign donations from Cape Wind executives and lobbyists, while Udall, an energy subcommittee member for the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, took in $8,350 since last year, records show.
Among the many lawmakers who have gotten the biggest donations from just Cape Wind lobbyists, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics:
• $69,400 to U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), who serves on the Committee on Environment and Public Works.
• More than $21,000 to U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), a member of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources and chairman of the subcommittee on energy.
• More than $15,000 to U.S. Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) – Mark Udall’s cousin – who serves on the Appropriations Committee, which has broad jurisdiction over federal spending and a couple of subcommittees on energy and environment.
• More than $14,000 to U.S. Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy III, the Bay State congressman who sits on the energy subcommittee overseeing renewable energy.
Meanwhile, Cape Wind executives and lobbyists also gave nearly $16,000 to U.S. Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), who is chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and Environment.
Cape Wind developer Energy Management Inc. has scrambled to finance the offshore wind farm after the U.S. Department of Energy shelved its request for a $2 billion loan in 2011. The developer is now seeking an investment tax credit that would pay up to one-third of the project costs – or $780 million – plus a $500 million loan guarantee from the DOE, which means the federal government would assume the debt if Cape Wind fails.
“It just doesn’t smell right,” said former state Inspector General Gregory W. Sullivan, research director at Pioneer Institute. “We have policymakers who are receiving these extraordinarily large campaign donations and the (electricity) ratepayers don’t have anyone on their side. It’s not a level playing field. There’s an underlying battle taking place behind a curtain of secrecy about how much subsidy will be provided to Cape Wind.”
Cape Wind executives signed a contract with German engineering company Siemens to construct and service the turbines late last year, before the deadline for the tax credit, which can be taken as a cash grant paid to the company upfront.
“They successfully lobbied to extend the tax credit until December,” Sullivan said. “Those (legislative) decisions really make or break these deals because without that subsidy, Cape Wind wouldn’t happen.”
Cape Wind spokesman Mark Rodgers responded, saying, “Cape Wind has never sought special treatment. … Cape Wind lobbyists include members of a large law and lobbying firm with thousands of clients, many of whom are lobbying clients. Their contributions reflect the political preferences of their members and their varied client interests. Attributing all of a large firm’s contributions to a single client makes no sense.”
Kennedy’s spokeswoman said his support for Cape Wind “is informed by careful analysis of the project,” while a Markey spokeswoman said green energy tax credits would level the playing field after billions in tax breaks have gone to oil, coal and nuclear energy.
Sen. Tom Udall’s spokeswoman said he has not met with Cape Wind officials or taken a position on the project, and a Reed spokesman said campaign contributions have no bearing on his positions.
Other lawmakers did not respond to requests for comment.