Revolving door the norm in D.C. but rare in Maine

It's nice to see a guy get a raise, but the compensation package offered to Maine's former Public Utilities Commission chairman by a wind developer raises a number of red flags.

According to a story Thursday by Naomi Schalit, of the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting, former PUC Chairman Kurt Adams negotiated a pretty sweet deal for himself about a month before leaving the state's employ.

Adams accepted a vice-president's position at the Boston-based First Wind, a company seeking to develop a wind energy project in Maine.

A Securities and Exchange Commission filing says his first-year compensation at the firm totaled $1.3 million, which included $315,000 in salary, $658,000 in stock, $29,000 in "other" compensation and $315,000 in "non-equity compensation."

That's certainly a step up from his former position, which pays the current PUC chair, Sharon Reishus, a measly $164,278 per year. In fact, it's an eight-fold increase if the value of his stock is included.

And this is at a firm that has yet to turn a profit, according to a March 30 Boston Globe story. 

The company had revenues of $47.1 million in 2009, but still had an operating loss of $57.1 million.

What's more, first wind is not a big company.  According to the Globe, it has a total of 70 employees. And, according to the company's website, 10 of them are either chairmen, CEO, CFO or a vice president of one thing or another.

Compare that to some of Maine's top hospital CEOs, who also make about $1 million per year, but who supervise thousands of employees and produce hundreds of millions in revenue.

So, what does a company get when it pays $1.3 million for a former regulator from Maine?

Contacts. Knowledge of the regulatory process. Friends in high places. A big Rolodex — make that a deep Blackberry "contacts" list.

This is, of course, the kind of strategic hire that happens 100 times a day in Washington, but which we seldom see in Maine.

It's not illegal, but it's the familiar "revolving door" of politicians, soldiers and regulators moving seamlessly between government and industry that we've come to mistrust and despise about Washington.

But here's what should really concern us — the example Adams' hiring sets for other highly placed state employees.

Across Augusta, people buried in regulatory agencies must be asking themselves, "If he can do it, why can't I?"

Which raises an even more disturbing prospect called "regulatory capture."

It's a theory developed by Chicago School of Economics Professor George Joseph Stigler that regulators eventually identify with and aspire to join the well-heeled people they regulate.

And a regulator thinking about soon joining private industry probably isn't interested in offending prospective employers.

Of course, people do leave government. Adams' reason, a conflict of interest posed by Central Maine Power's efforts to expand transmission lines near his home, is a good one.

Still, we hope his example remains the exception rather than the rule for Maine.

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 's picture

Wait til' our good Governor

Wait til' our good Governor goes to work for FirstWindSprawl. Millions in subsidy money ,outright grants, insider trading of RECs...who could resist? Hopefully someone with a conscience and moral compass...

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30-40 years

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Knock it off!

Leave the Democrats alone.  They are only doing what they have been doing for at least 30-4- years in Maine.  Looking out for themselves.  This guy must have had trouble supporting his family on what the State left him after all of the taxes and fees!

 's picture

Must be other illegal activities for Kurt Adams

It would be nice for the FBI to investigate all the shady deals Kurt Adams has facilitated for First Wind/UPC and other wind developers, including the deal to allow First Wind's Stetson project to get on the constricted transmission line.

Kurt, maybe you can get a reduced sentence if you confess now, and rat out your crooked friends at First Wind. LOL




RONALD RIML's picture

The wind in Maine is How Unreliable???

Waldoboro is the Home of the Five Smoke-Stacked Steamer.

Searsport was never home to Sailing Captains

A "Nor'Easter" is actually a souped-up car used to smuggle Mexicans across the border.

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Briber & bribed should be in jail

"So, what does a company get when it pays $1.3 million for a former regulator from Maine?"

It gets approval to ruin Mars Hill, and it gets another sleazy crook to join sleazy First Wind/UPC/IVPC. This company owned and operated wind plants in Italy. Their former partners have been arrested for fraud, for collecting subsidies from wind plants that produced little or nothing. They've been investigated for bribing local officials. Kurt fits right in with this den of thieves.

Granted this kind of shady deal happens all the time in Washington, Maine and most every State, but Kurt took the money a little prematurely, making what he did illegal.



This editorial

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Will Kurt be prosecuted?

I wonder if Miss Janet ( our attoney general ) will prosecute the good fellow democrat Kurt Adams. If this guy was a republican, he would be in jail now. What he did was illegal, and it was and is illegal in Maine. Mr. Adams is a very bright guy, and he knew what he was doing. I certainly hope our current Governor stays away from the wind power business when he exits office in January. Would it be a blast if he somehow affiliated himself with Kurt Adams again. What do you say, Ms. attorney general, will you look closely at this case or do you only persecute and prosecute republicans that you don't like? Now that I think of it, your brother is a republican. I wonder if he approves of Mr. Adam's actions.

 's picture

It's rare in Maine because

It's rare in Maine because it's illegal in Maine. You may elect to turn your back to this, but the Maine ratepayers will not. Thanks, Mr. Adams for doing us the favor of existing the PUC. Now, you and your new employer can do us the pleasure of existing the state.


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