As THE battle for control of the US Senate intensifies, the National Republican Senatorial Committee has launched a determined effort to hold the Maine seat being vacated by Olympia Snowe. Unfortunately, that hasn’t meant building a positive case for GOP nominee Charlie Summers. Instead, the NRSC is focused on tearing down independent candidate Angus King, the former governor and wind-farmer.
One ad takes direct aim at wind energy, with a group of everyday people bemoaning a line of graceful white wind turbines and castigating King for them, as though they’ve somehow ruined the Maine landscape. Another uses a report by hyper-partisan Republican Representative Darrell Issa to claim that “King used his political connections to get a taxpayer-backed loan for his windmill business.”
What’s really sketchy is the ad itself. The spot relies on a report by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, chaired by Issa, a regular recipient of oil and gas industry contributions. In March, the committee issued a blunderbuss report designed to portray federal loans or loan guarantees for green energy projects as so many Solyndras waiting to happen. That report mentions Record Hill Wind, a Maine project that King’s company, Independence Wind, had a small stake in. But the report doesn’t allege any wrongdoing by King. It simply questions whether Record Hill’s technology was really innovative enough to qualify for a $102 million federal loan guarantee.
The assertion that King used his connections to get the guarantee was labeled false by Michael Shepherd, a truth-tester for MaineToday Media, which owns the Portland Press Herald and other prominent Maine papers. As Shepherd notes, US Representative Chellie Pingree, Democrat of Maine, wrote a letter to the Department of Energy recommending the project, a routine occurrence. But Willy Ritch, a senior adviser to Pingree, says the request for the letter came to him through Rob Gardiner, a well-known Mainer who was then King’s business partner.
Mainers have long looked askance at outsiders who spend big bucks meddling in their politics. In the case of the NRSC, which is reportedly spending at least $600,000 to air its attack ads, that skepticism is doubly warranted. In its attempt to keep the Maine Senate seat in the GOP column, the committee has thrown truth to the wind.