Fighting Cape Wind $1 million at a time

Fighting Cape Wind $1 million at a time

One donor puts up half of money

The Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound put out a press release last month suggesting that its strong fundraising was “another sign of growing opposition to Cape Wind.” The Alliance pointed out that it had raised nearly $2.1 million in 2012 and 82 percent of the donations came from small donors in amounts less than $500.

The group released its 2012 tax return this month, and it tells a very different story.

While it may technically be true that 82 percent of the Alliance’s donations came from small donors, most of the money came from a few big donors. The tax return indicates one unnamed donor, presumably Bill Koch, provided $1 million, nearly half of the Alliance’s fundraising total. The top six donors provided two-thirds of the organization’s funds.

Audra Parker, executive director of the Alliance, said she was not permitted by her donors to release their names. But it’s a good bet the big donor is Koch, a Floridian who summers in Osterville on the Cape. Koch runs Oxbow Corp., a major energy conglomerate, and is worth $4 billion. In an interview with CommonWealth earlier this year, he said he had donated more than $5 million to the organization as part of a strategy to keep delaying Cape Wind in the courts and in the court of public opinion until the proposed wind farm’s owner, Jim Gordon, calls it quits.

So far, Gordon hasn’t given up, but the delays have cost him. Gordon had vowed to start construction of the wind farm this year but time is running out. If he fails to start construction by December 31, Gordon could lose out on a federal investment tax credit worth 30 percent of the project’s $2.6 billion estimated cost. The tax credit is scheduled to expire at the end of the year. Gordon could also lose a $200 million investment if the project doesn’t launch by end of the year.

Loss of the tax credit and the investor would be big blows, but not necessarily fatal ones. The contracts that Gordon signed with the two leading electric utilities in Massachusetts allow him to raise the price he charges for power if he fails to secure the tax credit.

The Cape Wind project is facing a handful of legal challenges in Washington that have raised uncertainty about the wind farm and made it difficult to bring in investors. The Alliance, which is spearheading the legal challenges, spent $1.1 million on legal fees in 2012, according to its tax return.

Meet the Author

Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

The tax return shows no payments to the town of Barnstable, even though the Alliance pays the town’s legal bills for fighting Cape Wind. In the past, Parker has said the payments to Barnstable are just lumped in with the organization’s other legal fees. Of the $1.1 million the Alliance spent on legal fees in 2012, all but $161,000 went to its own two law firms. Presumably, all or some portion of the remaining $161,000 the organization paid out in legal fees went to the town of Barnstable to pay for its legal fight against Cape Wind.

The Alliance’s tax return indicates the organization ended the year with a deficit of nearly $662,000, which is less than the previous year’s deficit of $914,000.