Harry Reid’s ‘Green Energy’ Cronyism

Senator Harry Reid’s former staffers and a current campaign operative received billions of dollars in federal ‘green energy’ stimulus money as a result of Reid’s advocacy. Reid’s top political strategist, Rebecca Lambe founded the Clean Energy Project (CEP) in 2008 and served as its executive director and is now an adviser to CEP.

Meanwhile, his former chief of staff Susan McCue served as CEP’s president and is a member of its board. Both McCue and Lambe also run Senate Majority PAC, a Super Pac with close ties to Reid that spent $67 million to elect Senate Democrats last year.

Reid also helped ‘green energy’ companies like Nevada’s Ormat Technologies secure $350 million in loan guarantees. This ties into another former Reid aide and CEP executive director, Lydia Ball.

While on Reid’s staff, Ball was in charge of advising Nevada companies on how to get financing through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. She helped organize Reid’s annual National Clean Energy Summit in Las Vegas, also cosponsored by CEP.

California biofuel company Fulcrum Bioenergy attended last year’s summit, where Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced a $105 million grant for the company. Fulcrum Bioenergy contributed to CEP in 2013 and 2014.

The Defense Department awarded it another $70 million two weeks later and Reid took credit.

“Senator Reid wrote Secretary Hagel in support of Fulcrum’s grant application earlier this year,” his office said.

The Center for American Progress (CAP) has also sponsored the summit since its creation in 2008. CAP’s founder and former chairman John Podesta was a CEP board member until September 2013 and the 2014 summit’s keynote speaker.

The Podesta Group, the lobbying firm founded by Podesta and his brother Tony, began representing Fulcrum in April 2014, five months before that year’s CEP summit. The $175 million in federal grants soon followed.

Ormat donated to CEP while the company’s chairman Yoram Bronicki donated to Reid. CEP listed Ormat as a donor in 2012, a year after Reid helped it get a $350 million loan guarantee and nearly $100 million in federal financing for Nevada Geothermal, which claims Ormat as a contractor.

Also working on behalf of Ormat is Cassidy and Associates, a lobbying firm and CEP donor who has former Reid staffer Lambe as a senior adviser. Meanwhile, Cassidy lobbyist Kai Anderson, Reid’s former deputy chief of staff, has continued to represent the company since April 2009.

Another former Reid aide working to secure financing was Paul Thomsen, then Ormat’s in-house lobbyist. He’s a former lobbyist for Lionel Sawyer & Collins where all four of Reid’s sons have worked along with CEP board member and former Reid staffer Brent Heberlee.

Two years ago, two former Ormat Technologies employees filed a lawsuit claiming the company lied to the Treasury Department to get more than $130 million in federal grants. The focus of the lawsuit is the federal help provided to Ormat through Treasury’s section 1603 which provided grants to owners of commercial solar property.

Former Ormat asset manager Tina Calilung and former business development administrator, Jamie Kell, say the company falsified documentation to get and keep the financing. Ormat obtained nearly $123 million for its California-based North Brawley geothermal plant even though it had already “began producing, selling, and delivering electricity in 2008, before the grant application window.”

Kell also says she had to withdraw a Freedom of Information Act request in November 2012 after Ormat threatened to take away her health insurance while undergoing breast cancer treatment. Her FOIA request dealt with the Puna geothermal plant in Hawaii, where Ormat’s accused of submitting a false application for funds.

Another CEP donor, SolarReserve is among the companies that took advantage of Reid’s aid in securing financing. Reid pushed the Department of Energy in 2010 to speed approval of a $737 million loan guarantee for the company’s Nevada manufacturing facility.

Nevada’s largest utility and a CEP donor, NV Energy got a $138 million stimulus package through Reid, who also helped extend solar power tax credits to another CEP donor, SolarCity. Recently, SolarCity opened a second operations center in Vegas.

Amonix, a solar company and CEP donor, received almost $6 million in tax credits federal backing after Reid intervened on its behalf of the company’s Las Vegas production plant in 2010. The company closed the plant in 2012.

Reid also helped McKinney James client Bombard Renewable Energy, which includes CEP donor, Valley Electric Association. McKinney James sits on the board of MGM Resorts International, a 2014 sponsor of Reid’s ‘green energy’ summit.


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