Firm With 2 Full-Time Workers Lands $300M Puerto Rico Deal

Tiny Whitefish Energy happens to be financed by a big supporter of President Trump
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 24, 2017 12:05 PM CDT
Tiny Firm Backed by Trump Donor Scores Huge Contract
Whitefish workers restore power lines damaged by Hurricane Maria in Barceloneta, Puerto Rico.   (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

A tiny for-profit company out of Montana has landed a $300 million contract to help get the power back on in Puerto Rico, reports the Spokesman-Review. How tiny? Whitefish Energy had just two full-time employees on the day Hurricane Maria slammed into the island. However, the company suggests that figure is misleading because its business model is based on being able to ramp up quickly with the hiring of hundreds of subcontractors. Still, the contract with the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority seems "unusual," in the words of the Washington Post. It's not only the biggest one awarded there in the wake of Hurricane Maria, it also seems to go against disaster protocol. That is, PREPA could have activated "mutual aid" agreements with other public utilities, which would have been obligated to help. Florida's, for instance, reached out publicly to offer assistance but never heard back.

"I'm scratching my head wondering how it all adds up," a former Energy Department official tells the Post. PREPA's chief has said Whitefish was the first "available to arrive and they were the ones that first accepted terms and conditions for PREPA.” Whitefish CEO Andy Techmanski, meanwhile, tells CNN that "we called each other." Whitefish is based in Whitefish, Mont., the hometown of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, but both Techmanski and Zinke say the fact that they know each other played no role. The Daily Beast, meanwhile, reports the company is financed by a private equity firm called HBC Investments, founded by Joe Colonnetta. And Colonnetta is a big supporter of President Trump: Last year, he gave $20,000 to the Trump Victory PAC, $2,700 to Trump's primary election campaign, $2,700 to his general election campaign, and $30,700 to the Republican National Committee. (More Puerto Rico stories.)

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