Times Argus: Iberdrola / Avangrid “buying votes” in Grafton and Windham

times-argus-logoAn October 9th Editorial at the Times Argus pulls no punches in addressing the latest scheme of Iberdrola / Avangrid to influence the November vote in Grafton and Windham.

Iberdrola / Avangrid’s actions “raise serious concerns,” writes the Editors of the Argus, after Iberdrola / Avangrid announced last week that they would give registered voters individual, annual payments if they vote “yes” to the wind project and then opt-in to the payments.

Writes the Argus:

The company would also be contributing property tax revenue to the town and other payments, providing a significant share of municipal revenues. But the payments to registered voters would go a step further. How is it not a bribe? How it is it not the buying of votes?…

Sensing that the wind was blowing against them, Iberdrola has decided to pay off the voters. That is an astonishing corruption of the democratic process.

Not that it should come as a surprise to anyone, however. Iberdrola is currently the target of multiple fraud and corruption cases across Europe and in the US. In Spain, Iberdrola is currently appealling a $27M fine for market manipulation. It’s received millions of dollars in fines and is facing tens of millions in proposed fines. It’s been banned from World Bank financing. As Connecticut’s New Haven Register suggests, the only reason Iberdrola recently adopted “Avangrid” as their US name, is Iberdrola has become synonymous with corruption.

Why should Vermont voters expect anything different? Indeed, just a few weeks ago Vermonters got a taste of how deeply Iberdrola / Avangrid has undermined the state and its political process. On Monday, September 19, 2016, VT Governor Peter Shumlin literally flipped the bird to VT residents as Shumlin sped past in his SUV to join Iberdrola / Avangrid in a ceremonial groundbreaking for the $80 million Deerfield Wind project, the first ever commercial wind project to be built in a national forest.

Yes, the finger.

Yes, foreign industrial wind in Vermont’s national forest.

Yes, even though Vermont’s own Fish & Wildlife Department has fought the Deerfield Wind project since the beginning.

Yes, paying residents who vote “yes” to Iberdrola / Avangrid.

No, nothing corrupt here.

At the Chester Telegraph, Windham resident Bill Dunkel explains, in detail, the entire disaster that is now the Vermont political process around corrupt foreign energy companies.

Last Tuesday night, a foreign corporation promised me a minimum of $23,240, as long as voters approve their turbine project in November.

This was done publicly and in writing at an open meeting held at our local elementary school. I was not the only one offered this opportunity. Every registered voter in Windham can get their share of the annual $350,000 Project Partnership Program, provided the referendum goes Iberdrola’s way.

As a prominently displayed sign stated, with the key information in bold print, “Each year the fund will be dispersed evenly among the number of participants in the program, making the yearly payment a minimum of $1,162 per registered voter based upon the current number of registered voters.”

If the turbine project is approved on Nov. 8 and subsequently receives a 20-year Certificate of Public Good by the PSB, I’m in the money to the tune of $23,240 – even more if some people opt out of the program, leaving fewer people to divvy up the spoils of victory.

The dictionary definition of a bribe is “money or favor given or promised in order to influence the judgment or conduct of a person in a position of trust.” The Project Partnership Program offers “direct annual payments” in a blatant effort to influence voters who, in a democracy, are in a position of trust when they go to the polls. This certainly seems to fit the definition of a bribe.

A number of people have asked the Vermont Secretary of State’s Office to investigate whether this scheme violates any campaign laws. Iberdrola is a huge, multinational corporation headquartered in Spain with total assets in excess of $100 billion and an annual net income in 2015 of $2.422 billion. No doubt they have an army of well-paid lawyers on their payroll. Odds are they have found a loophole in ours laws that will allow them to legally dangle this money in front of voters.

But even if this is deemed legal, is it ethical? Does it pass the “smell test?” Do we really want a system that allows any fabulously rich individual or corporate entity to say to Vermont voters, “Here is a huge pot of money, and I will give you some of it as long as this referendum, this ballot issue or this elective office is decided as I wish?”…

The referendum in Windham and Grafton on Nov. 8 is not just about windmills anymore, it’s about the integrity of our electoral process.

Read the rest at the Chester Telegraph.

October 9th, 2016|