$300M No-Bid Puerto Rico Contract Awarded To Two-Man Company From Sec. Ryan Zinke’s Hometown

USA Today reports:

A $300 million contract to help rebuild Puerto Rico’s electrical infrastructure, which was awarded to a small, two-year-old Montana company that had only two employees when Hurricane Maria struck the U.S. territory, has sparked calls for an investigation from both Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill.

In addition to its size and relative inexperience, the fact that Whitefish Energy Holdings is based in Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s hometown of Whitefish, Mont., is fueling questions about how Whitefish Energy Holdings secured the lucrative contract. The former Montana congressman’s son also had a summer job at a Whitefish construction site.

Reuters reports:

Whitefish was awarded the deal without a competitive bidding process, and despite the facts that it had just two full-time employees and was established only two years ago. That drew criticism from legislators who suggested cheaper options might have been available.

In a statement on Tuesday, Governor Ricardo Rossello said his administration would review PREPA’s contracting practices and forward findings to the island’s comptroller. Rossello defended the deal, saying it was necessary to ensure Puerto Rico would have workers in place quickly.

“Of those (contractors) who met the requirements and aggressive schedules to bring brigades, one was asking for a substantial amount of money – which PREPA had no liquidity for – and another did not require it,” Rossello said. “That other one is Whitefish.”

  • Boreal
    • David Walker

      As with everything else the fucking moron and his henchpersons do, it does now.

  • justme

    SOrta like the Iraqi “contracts” duriong the last GOP administration…

  • Lumpy Gaga

    Isn’t Whitefish, MT also the town where a small group of Nazis are harassing one of the two Jews left in town??

    • Yes that’s where Richard Spenser is from.

      • Ragnar Lothbrok

        Relocated to, I believe.

  • FAEN

    I want hearings stat!

    Yeah like anything will come of this. Corrupt bastards.

    • Tawreos

      Hearings? From the party that sees no need to investigate members of their own party?

  • Stogiebear

    I don’t know about you but $300M sounds like a pretty substantial amount of money to me.

    OT : Greetings JMGers from downtown Tacoma, WA!

    • bkmn

      Greetings from the other side of the Sound! If you like spicy food I recommend Tacoma Szechuan (actually in Lakewood though)

      • Stogiebear

        Thank you!

    • Joe in PA

      Hey Stogie, can they understand you there…what with your Texas drawl and all? 🙂

      Waves back!

      • Stogiebear

        I’ve limited myself to short common phrases to make my visit successful. ;^)

    • GayOldLady

      Especially for a company with 2 employees.

      • John30013

        They basically subcontract all the actual work (at quite high hourly rates, according to reporting on MSNBC last night). So they’re really just acting as the prime contractor, and no doubt taking a substantial sum for their 2 years of so-called “expertise”.

    • RaygunsGoZap

      What are you doing in Tacoma?

      • Stogiebear

        Annual handbookbinders conference is here this year.

    • Ragnar Lothbrok

      Havin’ fun there ?

      BTW, the mayor ain’t havin’ it

      https://twitter.com/thehill/status/923209559656812545

    • John30013

      I’m guessing he meant money up front. But your point is well taken.

      The MSNBC nighttime hosts have been talking about this for a couple of days now.

  • netxtown

    I’ve read several articles on this….and I think PR got it right. Whitefish is hiring PR contractors to do the work – which puts the money directly back into the local economy – – – unlike those biggie companies that channel chunks of change back to the GOP. And when all is said and done – those local contractors will be left to do the maintenance on a system they know,

    • Tawreos

      I’ll believe it when i see where the balance of the payments are going.

      • netxtown

        agree. whitefish has put themselves in the crosshairs.

        • John30013

          Which they could clear up by being very transparent about the process that led up to this contract being awarded to them.

      • Joe in PA

        Can’t you just see the Whitefish execs:

        “and one for you, and nine for me, and one for you and nine for me”

        • Boreal

          Don’t forget Zinke’s kickback.

          • Joe in PA

            And BTW, I like your new avatar…you big bad wolf you. 🙂

          • Boreal

            Just for All Hallows Eve.

    • netxtown

      I should add:

      No matter who got the contract – the money trails on govt contracts always lead back to donors, corruption, etc. Somehow, as i understand it, PR was able to require local contractors were used for the work. Not sure how they pulled that off – but they did. It puts feet on the ground immediately, puts money in the hands of the locals, and yields a ‘grid’ the locals will be familiar with for repair/maintenance in the future.

    • Butch

      Puerto Rico’s power distribution system has had trouble for years; I remember standing in a pitch-black windowless conference hall about 20 years ago, waiting to be led out by flashlight, because San Juan had lost power. This was a huge opportunity to move the island toward sustainable, renewable methods of power generation; Whitefish won’t take advantage of that opportunity.
      And by the way, has anyone else seem the latest right-wing meme (provided to me via a family member who actually believes it), that donated food has been found in Puerto Rican dumpsters, and of course it’s not because distribution has been inefficient and slow as a result of the botched federal response, it’s because those lazy shiftless brown people just won’t help themselves.

      • netxtown

        Tesla has jumped into the sustainable/renewable aspect. But, they can’t afford to do the whole island, and being it is new technology, the experienced labor pool would probably be small.

        • Butch

          There are actually many more people involved in renewable energy than in coal mining; there’s a substantial labor pool available and many of the technologies (solar, wind, biomass, microturbine) have moved way beyond the bench test level. It could be done and there are FEMP grants available to help. It just takes the will. (One of my jobs involves renewable energy, so I’ve been forced to learn something about the field.)

          • netxtown

            I would love to see PR go full renewables. But I think time and need (hospitals, economy, etc) don’t have the resources to wait for a FEMP grant to be approved. Besides, donnie would fight a grant to them brown peoples every inch of the way….

    • Lizard

      Why wasn’t there a competitive bidding process, though? If they’d publicly advertised the award to government contractors (which they’ve had over a month now to do), they would have received other offers from more established companies with checkable track records. $300 million is a substantial contract.

      • netxtown

        There was some hiccup in money. From previous records, the other companies would have required a very substantial up-front payment to begin – and the money just wasn’t there. Whitefish required a much smaller first payment. I suppose it could be said that Whitefish ‘adjusted’ their first payment to what was in the kitty to secure the contract….and collect the balance later.

        I wonder if the money situation is connected to the $35b disaster bill???

      • Strepsi

        I read that 1) Puerto Rico would have had to make major deposits for any major contractor, and is broke; and 2) A PR official said Whitefish had made a previous bid and their number was on paper (the phone and power was out so they had no database) and the official called them direct on satellite phone! If there are grains of truth here beyond GOP corruption, both reasons are sad for PR.

      • KarenAtFOH

        We in Florida are being warned repeatedly not to sign repair contracts with out-of-state, fly by night “contractors” who swarm in here like locusts after a major storm. Too bad PR is falling for the same scam.

      • KarenAtFOH

        Gee, if only we had a President and a Congress willing to put up the required deposits with experienced and reputable companies.

    • ColdCountry

      That’s good if there is enough local talent for the job. I would think that they would need a LOT of help to get this done in an anywhere near timely fashion. Just thinking about how, when we got hit with that huge ice storm years ago, we had people from many states, and Canada, helping us get back on line.

    • John30013

      If that’s true then good for them. I’d still like to see more details on exactly which contractors are being hired, and from where, and how much they’re getting paid, as opposed to how much Whitefish is charging for them.

    • BobSF_94117

      I can’t imagine why you think there were/are thousands of linemen hanging out in PR, just waiting for a contract job with a Stateside company…

      I believe you have misunderstood where those contractors are coming from.

      • netxtown

        Of course there arent thousands. Maybe a couple hundred. But, that is boots on the ground long before they can organize a stateside contingency. And, stateside contractors have to get approvals and money and permissions – all the typical red tape. And, once they get there – how much lodging is even available for housing them?

        PR still needs all the help it can get. And, using the locals to get the ball rolling was a smart move.

        • BobSF_94117

          Any linemen who were already in PR probably worked for the local utilities and would have been part of the recovery regardless of who was brought in from the States to run the show. Maybe Whitefish stole those employees from the utilities…

          Anyway, this isn’t America’s first disaster and plans were already in place to help in crises like this. Crews from across the country descended on Houston and Florida and Louisiana and the USVI. Only PR chose, suddenly, to go off on a different path which will coincidentally bring hundreds of millions in profits to a few well-connected GOP donors. And which is way behind all those other places in terms of boots on the ground, as you say. I’m on STT and there are crews from CT, VA, FL, NJ working on the roadsides today, HUNDREDS of them (all with potbellies — must be a work hazard).

          As for accommodations, they mostly stay in the hotels because there are virtually no tourists here. I expect it’s quite similar in PR. Some places were damaged but there are lots of hotel rooms for workers. They also brought in a cruise ship to house FEMA and other federal workers.

  • Lumpy Gaga
  • romanhans

    Further investigation shows a hint of criminality: the owner and his wife donated around $90,000 to the RNC and Trump in the last two years.

    • Tawreos

      Of course, how else would anyone get on the list?

    • The_Wretched

      Everything Trump is pay to play. And if you don’t, Donny tweets about destroying you and yours until you do pay up.

  • Barry William Teske

    A fool and everybody elses money.
    Did I mention #45?

    • Lumpy Gaga

      We’d appreciate it if you didn’t unless it’s absolutely necessary.

      • Barry William Teske

        #45 has your money and will decide arbitrarily what to do with it.

        • Lumpy Gaga

          See, now you’ve farted and I’m going all the way down to 1.

  • Joe in PA

    I LOVE Joe’s headline. No mincing words for you Joe! Good job. I actually did LOL. 🙂

  • bkmn

    Republican fiscal responsibility at work.

    • Joe in PA

      My new phrase of the day (based on previous threads): “Conservative Principles”.

      Bwhahaha.

  • Dutchlander

    Nothing to see here, people. Keep on walking.

  • Tomcat
  • TexasBoy

    Workers in place quickly? 75% of the island still has no power.

    • Lumpy Gaga

      What’s he gonna do? Call them?

    • Bj Lincoln

      When it’s only 2 people it’s not hard to find a flight to get them there. I wonder how just 2 employees are going to get the job done?

      • KarenAtFOH

        They’ll hire hundreds of temps who won’t be properly covered with workplace protections, or need expensive health insurance. Just don’t look too closely at their work.

  • Rebecca Gardner

    Well, I called this just days after Puerto Rico was hit and we did nothing to help. It was so obvious. Send in private corporations to “fix” the problems. Evict residence with eminent domain, and build luxury condos, homes, and resorts for the wealthy. Granted it wasn’t that hard to figure out. Fuck all these motherfuckers.

    https://twitter.com/JaimsVanDerBeek/status/921175367854866432

  • dcurlee

    Nothing fishy going on here…move on along

  • HZ81

    Jesus, makes Cheney and Halliburton look like Mother Teresa and her bucket.

    Edit: and some say she was a kunt, too.

  • Taylor Bixler
  • Natty Enquirer
  • canoebum

    This cretin has got to go! His use of expensive private jets to travel the country for photo ops, the “Secretary’s Flag” which is hoisted whenever he is in the Interior Department building, the no-bid sweetheart deals, his weakening the protections of public lands and now, if not selling them outright, plans to DOUBLE the entry costs for most National Parks. This guy is a fucking disaster, worse than James Watt.

    • KarenAtFOH

      No shit, “Secretary’s Flag”? WTF

  • Jerry Kott

    The Swamp was only lowered enough to expose the bottom feeders who have all the qualities to survive by honing their skills of being scavengers.

  • Raising_Rlyeh

    I’d hope that this would bring down Zinke, but that’s probably not going to happen

    • John30013

      So far Congress had done NOTHING to reign in the more excessive and unethical members of Trump’s cabinet. The only firings have been because the bad news surrounding the administration officials was overshadowing Trump’s own messaging.

      We need a Democratic majority in Congress of were going to have any hope of policing this administration.

  • worstcultever

    1 – A depressing thing which only I (?) seem to ponder – what about the *next* killer storm down there, raging yet again over those tiny, vulnerable islands? Warmer ocean waters would seem to guarantee it. This is the beginning of climate change/global warming devastating and displacing populations, and not one of us isn’t ultimately on the conveyor belt.

    2 – The corruption of Trump/Zinke types – there is no bottom, none. It is – if I may – the Worst Cult Ever. It wants us all sleeping under bridges, and it will get its way. Along with the floods and famines. It seems baked into our human DNA. Which is why I’ve never been too impressed with our species.

    /pessimistic this morning

    • KarenAtFOH

      Perhaps, from an evolutionary biology perspective, the mobster/criminal/evil characteristics of our species serves to promote the higher/better/loving characteristics in a way that sustains and expands our evolutionary existence. Still, I want trump to go away ASAP.

  • netxtown

    When I turn off FF tracking protection to see all the stuff here….I sometimes start getting ‘messages’ on my phone that my carrier message account was accessed. Bear in mind – I’m NOT using my phone for access.

    Anybody else?

  • ColdCountry

    What.The.Fuck?

  • JWC

    Now why would I say that this little sweetheart deal stinks

  • lattebud

    How one fleeces a government contract..

    “Under the contract, the hourly rate was set at $330 for a site supervisor, and at $227.88 for a ‘journeyman lineman,’ ” The Washington Post reports. “The cost for subcontractors, which make up the bulk of Whitefish’s workforce, is $462 per hour for a supervisor and $319.04 for a lineman. Whitefish also charges nightly accommodation fees of $332 per worker and almost $80 per day for food.”

    http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/10/24/559864118/tiny-montana-firm-gets-300-million-contract-to-help-restore-power-in-puerto-rico

    • BobSF_94117

      Ran into a lineman here on St. Thomas who was brought in with a crew from Kentucky to repair power poles and rehang lines. He’s being paid about the same rate as he was paid at home in Kentucky. The company is putting them up in a hotel, four to a room. There are hundreds of linemen here, all from the States, brought under standard help-each-other contracts that utilities normally sign onto. Meanwhile, Whitefish has provided, IIRC, an entire 238 linemen for PR, adding 10-20 men per day. At that rate, PR will have full power sometime in 2043.

  • Ninja0980

    So much for draining that swamp eh?

  • Jeffg166

    Nothing to see here, please move along.

  • Elsewhere1010

    Sure they cost less than the other guy, but on the other hand they won’t do any actual work on Puerto Rico’s damaged infrastructure.

    I know I’m naive, but I still cannot for the life of me figure out how people like Zinke sleep at night. Sure, he’s a republican, but even so…. a thief is a thief.

    • boatboy_srq

      It’s only theft if there’s an enforceable law against it. See: Enron.

      • Elsewhere1010

        I’m not really concerned about law in this case; stealing from the public coffers is theft.

        • boatboy_srq

          Enron is still instructive. Their forced negotiations with California for electric rates – rates they spiked until the agreement, then immediately lowballed once the agreement was in place just to spite Gray Davis – fit that model just as neatly.

          My point is that to these grifters, anything they won’t (NB won’t, not can’t) be thrown in jail for is merely good – even shrewd – business practice.

  • boatboy_srq

    The cronyism.

    They’re not even subtle about it.

  • Charles Nelson

    Read more about it!…Whitefish owner was in PR last summer, trying to drum up business for his small company. PR is well known to have bankrupt electric company with terrible service. When Irma hit, his company was one of two that had already been in contact. Still smells though!

  • Girlgoon

    Sounds like whitefish is catfishing the government

  • Halou

    “Money in my pockets, and may the people of Puerto Rico never get their electricity back and find out the truth.”

  • Jean-Marc in Canada
  • Pete Wascher

    how can a contract that big escape competitive bidding?

  • Michael Hampton

    Nothing to see here. Everything is fine.

  • Sam D. Maloney

    Zinke has never lived in Whitefish, or Montana for that matter. The media refuses to cover the story, but his ‘address’ in Whitefish was an abandoned B&B. So look at where this little company donated money: that’s how they got the contract. Had nothing to do with being in Whitefish.

  • Marides48

    And the Swamp get’s deeper.