Saturday, October 28, 2017 at 9:15 AM

Hurricane Maria: Puerto Rico Catfished by Whitefish

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is investigating a controversial $300 million contract to rebuild Puerto Rico’s power grid, a no-bid award that has spotlighted the agency’s poor record of policing similar grants and drawn scrutiny from its watchdog.

Whitefish Energy Holdings LLC, a Montana-based company that had just two full-time employees prior to beginning its work in Puerto Rico, was selected last week by the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority to lead the rebuilding of Puerto Rico’s hurricane-ravaged electrical grid with the expectation that the money would come from FEMA.

(Bloomberg News, October 27, 2017)

Frankly, nobody should be surprised that the shady business dealings that define the Trump Organization are now defining the Trump Administration.

And the canard of promising to investigate only adds insult to this simple and brazen case of corruption. After all, anyone can see why Whitefish got this contract:

The Department of the Interior oversees FEMA; Trump’s secretary for this department is Ryan Zinke; and not only is Zinke from Whitefish, Montana, but he’s a friend of the founding partner of Whitefish Energy’s two-man front to boot.

What’s more, as fleecing schemes go, this one would make even Trump green with envy. For, according to Business Insider, some of its provisions include:

  • $79.82 per person for food each day;
  • $332.41 per person for accommodations each day;
  • More than $40,000 for helicopter-related services;
  • It states that, ‘In no event shall [government bodies] have the right to audit or review the cost and profit elements’;
  • And that the Puerto Rican government ‘waives any claim against contractor related to delayed completion of work.’

If that isn’t incriminating enough, reports are that the money men behind Whitefish Holdings donated huge sums to Trump’s presidential campaign. Which is why, for them, this contract is nothing more than kickback as payback.

Not to mention that Puerto Rico ended up with Whitefish despite public-spirted offers from many established electrical companies, including Tesla.

The Tesla team has done this for many smaller islands around the world, but there is no scalability limit, so it can be done for Puerto Rico too. Such a decision would be in the hands of the PR govt, PUC, any commercial stakeholders and, most importantly, the people of PR.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 5, 2017

Meanwhile, thanks to Whitefish’s rag-tag band of line workers, over 80 percent of Puerto Rico remains without electricity.

But hey, we’ve already seen that “Make America Great Again” means having the federal government pay millions for Trump’s kids to travel the world doing business deals. Therefore, it should hardly surprise that it also means having the federal government pay hundreds of millions for his cronies to pull off the biggest kickback deal the world has ever seen: #MAGA!

This just proves what I warned about in commentaries like “Trump for President? Don’t Be a Sucker,” April 8, 2011, and “Trump, Jared, and Ivanka Forgoing Salaries Is Just Another Bait and Switch,” April 3, 2017.

Alas, the Americans who voted for him proved the Barnumesque quip about a sucker born every minute. This Whitefish catfish merely shows that there’s no limit to how much Americans can be played for suckers.

That said, I’d be remiss not to comment on the sideshow within the sideshow that has characterized relief and rebuilding efforts in Puerto Rico. It has featured the mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulín Cruz, famously kicking Trump’s ass for the Katrina-like incompetence and outright neglect, and the governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rossello, kissing it for whatever he can suck out of FEMA.

But I suspect we will learn in due course that the governor’s kissing was more about getting kickbacks to line his own pockets than doing anything necessary to rebuild Puerto Rico. He’s venting fiscal indignation today. But if Rossello knew nothing about this contract, he would be guilty of gross nonfeasance. If he knew about it, or even had a hand in granting it, he would be guilty of gross misfeasance.

Related commentaries:
Trump, Jared, Ivanka
Trump for pres? Don’t be a sucker
Puerto Rico, Trump’s Katrina

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