Questionable $300M Puerto Rico Contract for Zinke-Linked Company

In 2017, American Oversight began investigating the decision to award a $300 million contract for the restoration power in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria to a small company with potential ties to former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

BACKGROUND

On October 23, 2017, news broke that a $300 million contract to restore electrical power in Puerto Rico had been awarded to Whitefish Energy, a small Montana-based company with only two full-time employees.

The company is based in Whitefish, Mont. — Zinke’s hometown. Despite attempts by the Interior Department (DOI) to downplay any relationship between the two, reports indicated that Zinke knew Whitefish CEO Andy Techmanski and that Zinke’s son had previously worked for one of Techmanski’s companies. Additional reporting indicated that one of Whitefish Energy’s primary investors donated almost $100,000 to support President Donald Trump’s campaign.

Puerto Rico went without power for 11 months after the hurricane hit, and there were serious questions about whether the Trump administration had doled out critical contracts to friends and donors — rather than to those best equipped for the job. Zinke resigned from his position in December 2018, but American Oversight continues to investigate why this little-known company was awarded such a lucrative contract.

WHAT WE’RE SEEKING

  • Records from the Department of the Interior, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Army Corps of Engineers, and the Department of Energy reflecting communications between high-ranking agency officials and Whitefish Energy Holdings, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, or the Puerto Rico Oversight Board;
  • Communications between Zinke and the governor of Puerto Rico relating to Hurricane Maria or issues with the electric grid; and
  • Communications within DOI, FEMA, the Army Corps of Engineers, or the Energy Department that reference Whitefish Energy, Puerto Rico, or related issues or companies.