New documents show that Whitefish Energy Holdings LLC spent $150,000 lobbying Congress after the Montana-based energy company fell under scrutiny for its deal with the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority in the wake of Hurricane Maria.
A lobbying report filed last week shows Whitefish hired five legal representatives from law firm Foley & Lardner for a sum of $150,000. Though the report specifies "lobbying issues" involving "Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority to rebuild transmission lines damaged from recent hurricane damage," it is unclear what exactly the firm was hired to do, according to OpenSecrets.org.
Two former members of Congress, Dennis Cardoza and Scott Klug, were included among the hired lobbyists, the report disclosed. Whitefish released a statement in October defending the hiring of Foley & Lardner. "Whitefish Energy has a reputation to uphold and we felt that Foley would help us in being able to have those conversations in a productive manner," Whitefish spokesman Ken Luce said in a statement.
Rumors of an investigation began in October, after Whitefish received a contract for $300 million from PREPA, a government-owned electric power company, for 1.5 million people. Despite Whitefish's small size—it had only a handful of employees at the time, and little previous work to show for utility repair—the energy company was hired by PREPA to help restore electrical service to Puerto Rico after one million lost power due to Hurricane Maria.
Some lawmakers questioned the role of Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke in forming the contract. Zinke and Whitefish Energy share the same Montana hometown. Zinke has denied any connection, saying in a statement that he "had absolutely nothing to do with Whitefish Energy receiving a contract," and any claimed ties to him "awarding or influencing any contract involving Whitefish are completely baseless." PREPA stopped the contract in October amid threats of investigation.