How Did a Montana Power Company Get One of The Toughest Jobs Around?
The island of Puerto Rico is still reeling from Hurricane Maria. The devastating storm left the territory 100% in the dark. Right now, power is slowly being restored by a small Montana power company. And according to New Republic, the company’s contract is raising questions.
A Huge Task Ahead
New Republic says the $300 million government contract was awarded to the Montana Power Company, Whitefish. It’s a two-year-old company, awarded the largest government contract so far in the hurricane relief effort. That’s a tall order for a company that only had 2 full-time employees when the hurricane hit the island. The New Republic article says it has been entrusted with a $300 million contract to “repair and reconstruct large portions of the island’s electrical infrastructure.”
Concerns and Connections
The article says that many are “concerned” if such small Montana power company can actually complete the job. Whitefish says that it is “ramping up rapidly by hiring workers on short-term contracts.” And the article notes that Puerto Rico’s power authority claims that Whitefish was the first company “available to arrive and they were the ones that first accepted terms and conditions.” They also point out that the Montana power company also has experience working in the mountains.
However, there could be more to the contract, according to the article. Whitefish is mostly financed by a large donor who also helped finance President Donald Trump’s campaign. New Republic quotes sources such as The Daily Beast, saying that Joe Colonnetta is a known donor to the Trump campaign and is also a founder of HBC Investments, which funds Whitefish. The sources say, Colonnetta “contributed $20,000 to the Trump Victory PAC during the general election then $27,000 to Trump’s primary election campaign. He also gave $30,700 to the Republican National Committee in 2016.
Besides the money trail, the article points out that the Whitefish CEO, Andy Techmanski, is friends with Ryan Zinke. Zinke is President Trump’s secretary of the interior.
New Republic says the connections to President Trump, coupled with the inexperience of Whitefish are raising eyebrows. They are currently working on the island’s power issues, however, millions in Puerto Rico are still in the dark.
Jeffrey A. Newman represents whistleblowers.