What do Russian investment schemes, tax fraud, human rights violations, and clandestine meetings have to do with Clean Line Energy Partners? I'm not really sure but there's an aroma that's hard to deny. Somewhere embedded in this scandal is Ziff Brothers investments, the same Ziff brothers who held a majority interest in Clean Line Energy Partners until recently out-invested by Bluescape.
Bluescape has invested more than $73M in Clean Line? Why? Clean Line hasn't been making any headway in getting its proposed projects approved and built. Instead, Clean Line seems to be regressing with the recent crop of court opinions that invalidated permits previously granted, or prevented new permits from being issued. Where's the draw? What makes investing in a company that is retreating further and further from realizing revenue so attractive? Do you smell it?
Now we find Clean Line investor Ziff Brothers smack dab in the middle of today's Russian scandal. The accusation has been made that Ziff Brothers evaded taxes in Russia in the amount of millions, and may ultimately own shares in a Russian company that foreign interests are prohibited from owning. And this isn't the first time Ziff Brothers got a mention in some foreign corruption scandal. There was the African thing. Accusations have been made in Australia.
But what's going on here at home? News reports indicate: "According to available information, the Ziff Brothers were involved in funding both of Obama's election campaigns and have been dubbed by the U.S. media as `the Democrats' main sponsors," Veselnitskaya wrote, in a Russian language document translated by NBC News."
And we've yet to uncover what exactly prompted the Obama administration's Department of Energy to use Section 1222 of the Energy Policy Act as a vehicle to promote Clean Line through a shady RFP with extra-statutory provisions for "renewables" and the subsequent murky two-step march to ramrod it through without proper due process.
Clean Line still bravely claims that its projects are "moving forward," despite its obvious lack of customers and revenue prospects. And investors keep investing in the company, long past the time when any other legitimate transmission company would have abandoned the idea. Other companies have shareholders they have to answer to, and public scrutiny of their finances. Clean Line? Well, it's not a publicly traded company, and it has no public rate structure. It's all a murky mystery. How does a company that hasn't built anything and has no revenue spend upwards of $200M attempting to get permits? Is this all on the up and up?
And when might the U.S. Dept. of Energy launch an investigation of the Sec. 1222 process? Or does the DOE enjoy "participating" in a transmission project with a third-party investor mired in the current Russia scandal? Has our own government participated in this international scheme?
Money, politics, money, influence, money, shell companies, money, tax evasion, money, money, money. And what's that smell?