The National Republican Senatorial Committee has entered the race for Maine’s open U.S. Senate seat with a television spot that attacks independent former Gov. Angus King and Democratic state Sen. Cynthia Dill, and makes no mention of Republican candidate Charlie Summers, Maine’s Secretary of State.
The TV spot, uploaded to the NRSC’s YouTube channel late Wednesday, goes after the $102 million federal loan guarantee Record Hill, LLC — of which King was a partial owner until January 2011 – received for its 22-turbine Record Hill wind project in Roxbury. “King used his political connections to get a taxpayer-backed loan for his windmill business,” the ad’s narrator says.
A Congressional oversight panel last March cited the Record Hill loan guarantee in a report focused on dozens of green energy projects. The inquiry, conducted following the high-profile failure of green energy company Solyndra, questioned whether the company needed the guarantee and whether the technology it was using met the federal guidelines for receiving the guarantee.
King’s partner, Rob Gardiner, said in March that the Record Hill project met all qualifications, and King’s campaign points out that taxpayers haven’t been on the line for the money since the company hasn’t failed. King sold his stake in Independence Wind to Gardiner two days before that Congressional inquiry came out. And while he and Gardiner were partial owners of the Record Hill project when the company applied for the federal loan guarantee, both sold their stake in the project in January 2011, eight months before the U.S. Department of Energy granted it.
The line about “political connections” is likely a reference to a letter U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree wrote to the federal energy department urging the agency to sign off on the loan guarantee. Pingree spokesman Willy Ritch confirmed the authenticity of the 2010 letter and said that Gardiner, not King, requested it.
“This is the sort of thing that we do all the time, support businesses and industries that we want to see grow,” he said.
On Dill, the NRSC ad says she “gave taxpayers the bill with her liberal policies,” referring to two tax bills Dill proposed last year as a member of the Maine House that both died in the Legislature.
One of the measures the NRSC cites would have required certain out-of-state retailers to notify their Maine shoppers that they have to pay sales or use taxes to the state of Maine for products they purchase out of state. The other would have allowed municipalities to levy up to a 3 percent “local option” sales tax on top of the state’s sales tax.
Correction: A previous version of this blog entry incorrectly stated that the loan guarantee was issued to Independence Wind. It was issued to Record Hill, LLC. This version also adds information to clarify King’s involvement in Record Hill and information about the timing of events.