Fact-check the attack in anti-King campaign ad

Posted on October 31, 2012 in Perspectives
By Andrew Henry

A recent television ad aimed against Angus King would like you, the voter, to believe that King was using government connections to turn a profit at the expense of small town Mainers.

The ads, funded by the National Republican Senatorial Committee claim that King was making millions of dollars from his investments in Independence Wind, LLC, the company that erected 22 wind turbines atop Record Hill in Roxbury, ME. The ad asks the question “Angus King got a sweetheart deal for his windmills, but what did Mainers get?”

The first thing Roxbury residents received was a significant reduction in property taxes, seeing their collective tax bill reduced by approximately $610,000. This equates to a roughly 59 percent reduction for every Roxbury resident. In addition to the tax reduction, residents receive a quarterly state-mandated “tangible benefits” payout of $111 each, a payout they will be collecting for 20 years. In total, through construction and maintenance jobs, Record Hill brought approximately $40 million into the Maine economy.

A fourth benefit, one that has more than just economic windfall, is the generation of electricity. The Record Hill Wind Farm generates 122 million kilowatts of electricity annually, enough to power all of Oxford County. This reduces energy bills and carbon footprint.

Now that we’ve answered the NRSC’s question, we can analyze the rest of the advertisement. Five people that we are led to believe are residents of Roxbury are seen sitting beside a lake, with Record Hill and its turbines visible in the background. These “residents” tell us that “Angus told us we’d have to get used to it,” and “Angus was making millions and millions of dollars.” Another said that it’s “atrocious.” One of them appealed to emotions and nature, stating, “We’ll never get those mountain tops back.”

Let’s analyze these claims. The ad itself and the concern of one of the citizens in it was over King’s profit from Record Hill. In actuality, King was a consultant for Independence Wind from 2009 to 2011. He earned $212,000 in total over five years for his work with Independence Wind, and the company sold its stake in the Record Hill Wind months prior to Angus announcing his Senatorial campaign.

The concept of the “sweetheart deal” revolves around the idea that King used government funding, putting the risk onto the tax payers in the event of a default. The success of the project is the greatest counter to that argument, as Independence Wind is honoring its loan commitments, making timely loan payments while still making the tangible benefits payments and providing electricity at the promised level of generation.

The man who has to “get used to it” and the woman who finds this situation “atrocious” are each direct beneficiaries of the quarterly payment and the tax breaks. None of the people featured in the ad have volunteered to return their tangible benefit checks.

In fact, two of the five people interviewed aren’t even from Oxford County. These “hired guns,” have a reputation for being anti-wind in other regions, were brought in to bolster the “hitting close to home” feeling of this ad. The woman who said, “We’ll never get those mountain tops back” is originally from Vinalhaven, a town with their own windmills, and controversy.

When this woman was living on Vinalhaven, she was one of the majority of voters who approved construction of three wind turbines. The initiative was passed with only five dissenting votes. As soon as the turbines went online, she was a founding member of a group known as Fox Island Wind Neighbors, a protest group that filed a lawsuit with the owners of the turbines. She has been asked by wind opponents to appear in several towns statewide where wind turbines were on the agenda, as well as giving a testimony in Connecticut courts in relation to wind turbines.

The fact that the NRSC brought in these hired guns begs the question of the accuracy of this ad as well as their other anti-King attack ads. It is universally understood that political ads typically present truthful information in a carefully framed fashion to promote a candidate or attack an opponent. That type of ad has some modicum of truth to it. If the other side has to resort to blatant lies, it makes you wonder what exactly it is about King’s senate run that has them so scared. When contacted, the NRSC declined to comment on this issue.

Alan Barker is a Junior Communications major.