Congress to Investigate Deal That Awarded $300M Contract to Trump Donor

Few things generate bipartisan agreement in Congress these days, but the idea that a two-man firm in Montana with absolutely no experience was hired to rebuild Puerto Rico’s electrical grid at a cost of $300 million, is enough to spur some communication across the aisles.


Rep. Raul Grijalva of Arizona, senior Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, said Congress “needs to understand why the Whitefish contract was awarded and whether other, more cost-effective options were available.”

A spokesman for Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop, R-Utah, agreed that congressional review was needed. The resources panel oversees Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory.

Congress’ multi-year investigation into Whitewater may have turned up nothing, but the Whitefish deal already looks … extremely fishy. A firm whose biggest previous job was building less than five miles of electrical line in Arizona was given the mammoth task of taking on a shattered electrical system that stretches over 2,400 miles. To award the contract to Whitefish, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority ignored reciprocal agreements that could have brought in far more help far more quickly. It also happens that the firm selected has some very special friends.

Luis Vega-Ramos, member of the Puerto Rico House of Representatives, told The Daily Beast, “Whitefish’s most important expertise or assets seems to have been… having the U.S. secretary of the interior, Ryan Zinke, as their former congressman and current ally and having the wisdom to retain the services of key people close to the governor [of Puerto Rico].”

With more than three-quarters of Puerto Rico still without power, with people’s lives literally on the line, the job of restoring the system has been handed over to a company that doesn’t even have an office

This isn’t the first investigation tied to Ryan Zinke. Like many other members of the Trump regime, Zinke has been running around the country, treating the government as his personal bank.

The Interior Department’s inspector general's office has opened an investigation into Secretary Ryan Zinke’s use of taxpayer-funded charter planes, a spokeswoman said Monday. 

That includes paying executives from an oil company taxpayer dollars for the use of their corporate jet to fly Zinke to a Las Vegas conference where he told oil companies about insufficient loyalty in his department while working to give away land and resources that belong to the public.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said Monday that nearly one-third of employees at his department are not loyal to him and President Donald Trump, adding that he is working to change the department’s regulatory culture to be more business friendly.

The people behind that tiny company in Zinke’s hometown also have other friends in the administration.

In addition to the Colonnettas’ contributions to Trump’s presidential campaign, Kimberly Colonnetta’s Facebook page contains a photo of her with Ben Carson, Trump’s secretary of housing and urban development. Another photo appears to show Kimberly Colonnetta with Trump Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. 

The Trump White House has demonstrated an astounding disregard for wasting public funds. Now even the Republican Congress wants to see if that’s matched by a taste forstraight-up corruption. There’s also one other aspect of the disaster on Puerto Rico: Poor execution during the recovery appears to have its roots in poor planning.

Grijalva said lawmakers also need to know why the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Army Corps of Engineers and public sector utilities “failed in Puerto Rico to conduct the disaster-response planning they carried out ahead of other disasters this year” in Texas, Florida and other states.

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