Rank and file Democratic congressman’s brother dependent on government grants for company’s success

Amanda Carey Contributor
Font Size:

Democratic Rep. Russ Carnahan of Missouri is a rank-and-file Democrat. According to, he has voted with the Democratic Party 99 percent of the time since he assumed office in 2005, and was among those who consistently espoused the merits of the 2009 stimulus package.

He has, in other words, been a good reliable Democrat for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Obama. And it seems the obedience has not gone unnoticed.

Earlier this month, the White House released a report entitled, “100 Recovery Act Projects that are Changing America.” Number 18 on the list is Lost Creek Wind Farm in DeKalb County, Missouri, which received a $107 million grant from the Department of Energy. And it just so happens that Lost Creek was founded by Tom Carnahan – Russ’ brother.

But Tom’s history associated with the war against fossil fuels and the world of renewable energy is a short one, beginning in 2005 — the same year his brother entered Congress — when he quit his law practice to start Wind Capital Group LLC to develop wind energy in Missouri. At first, business wasn’t so great, and the Lost Creek project was put on hold. That is, until the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was passed, and along with it, the establishment of the Department of Energy’s loan guarantee program.

That loan guarantee program, it turns out, has since buttered Tom Carnahan’s bread very nicely.

He even admitted as much in a 2009 interview when he said, “We never really liked to say it out loud…A few months ago, the banks were closed…The stimulus changed everything.”

Ed Martin, a Republican who is challenging Carnahan in November to represent Missouri’s third district, told the The Daily Caller that, “The stimulus has shown to be a payout to special interests and family members; it’s not focused on jobs,” adding that the Carnahans are a prime example.

“Americans know things like solar and wind power is a piece to a comprehensive energy plan, but the idea of spending millions on a wind farm is mind boggling,” said Martin. “It’s the worst of Washington in terms of insiders dealing with each other.”

But if the Carnahans have their way, the stimulus package won’t be the only government bailout Lost Creek will get. Both brothers are on record advocating a first-ever national Renewable Energy Standards (RES) bill that, until Wednesday, was working its way through the Senate.

The bill — introduced by Sens. Sam Brownback of Kansas, a Republican, and Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, a Democrat — mandates that at least 15 percent of electricity generated by utility companies has to come from renewable energy sources by 2021. It is the latest offensive move by those fighting the war against fossil fuels, which suffered a defeat over the summer when it became clear cap and trade legislation was dead in the Senate.

But before Congress went home, there was a rush to pass a standalone RES bill before the midterm elections when, presumably, the Republicans will gain much more influence and put all climate change legislation in the bottom drawer.

As a result, RES is being pushed by all kinds of environmental groups, trade groups, and businesses that make up the RES Alliance for Jobs – a coalition organized specifically to lobby for RES. One of its members is Wind Capital Group – Tom Carnahan’s company that is building Lost Creek.

Myron Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute told TheDC that a national renewable electricity standard has been tried before. And, what’s more, it doesn’t work. Instead of resulting in environmentally-friendly states, he said, electricity standards drive manufacturing out because of increased electricity costs.

NEXT: Myron Ebell explains the impact of a national renewable electricity standard
“What has happened is that these states have outsourced energy intensive projects to other places – China and states that use coal,” said Ebell. “But the idea now is that these people have their prices, so other states should be forced to adopt renewable energy standards too.”

But according to Ebell, even that will hurt states that already have standards in place because they still consume energy-intensive products. They just depend on other states to manufacture them. But if the standards that have been implemented in California and Massachusetts are put in place for the entire nation, the only long-term result will be the loss of manufacturing jobs to companies overseas.

Yet, strangely, businesses in the U.S. are still lobbying for the RES bill in the Senate.

Another notable member of the Alliance is Bloom Energy, which recently scored a very hefty grant from the Department of Energy to develop batteries to be used for things like electric cars.

General Electric is also a part of the Alliance and has, as TheDC previously reported, been very heavily involved in forcing a market for renewable energy by lobbying for cap and trade through the U.S. Climate Action Partnership. Coincidentally, GE has also supplied 100 turbines to Lost Creek.

Of course, it’s always worth pointing out that GE has a huge financial stake in the success of weaning the country off fossil fuels. Jeffrey Immelt, CEO of GE, even wields significant influence through his position on Obama’s Economic Advisory Board.

“Renewable energy standard is special interest politics at its worst,” Tom Borelli, director of the Free Enterprise Project, told TheDC. “Because wind and solar energy are not cost competitive with traditional forms of energy – coal, natural gas. It needs to be heavily subsidized by the U.S. taxpayers. It’s another corporate bailout for companies that rolled its dice on the Obama green energy economy craps table.”

Borelli went on to point out that studies on the European energy industry show that renewable energy mandates cost jobs. “A study in Spain found that for each green job created, it resulted in destroying 2.2 jobs in other sectors,” he said.

The bottom line is that the war against fossil fuels is not just fought on Capitol Hill. Rather, it includes a huge array of special interests, whose connections and collaborations are often so deep they are easily missed. Meanwhile, they tug at elected officials and high-level bureaucrats for things like grants, subsidies, and votes in favor of legislation that would mandate the use of “green” products.

NEXT: A closer look at Tom Carnahan
Tom Carnahan appears to be just another “green” advocate who is all too eager and willing to ride the government gravy train to riches through green technology mandates. And is seems, that essential for his success is his well-connected family — which includes not just his brother the U.S. congressman, but a sister, Robin, who is Missouri’s secretary of state and a current U.S. Senate candidate, a late father who was Missouri governor and a mother who was a U.S. senator.

“The next question needs to be when did the tax credits turn into a cash payment for Tom Carnahan, and did anyone have anything to do with that?” said Martin. “And people need to remember that in order to pay Carnahan, the money has to come from someone. It’s come from the taxpayers.”

“Nobody would build a wind farm without a subsidy and a mandate,” said Ebell. “The subsidy alone isn’t even enough. There also has to be a mandate that forces electric utilities to enter into long term contracts with wind farms.”

“But even in a windy place, the wind blows only 20 or 30 percent of the time,” he added. “You can’t count on wind.”

When contacted by TheDC, a spokesperson for Rep. Carnahan, Sarah Howard, denied any wrongdoing. “Over 1,100 alternative energy companies have qualified [for DOE grants]. Carnahan has had nothing to do with any of it,” she said.

In a statement, the Carnahan campaign said, “Russ Carnahan believes in supporting sustainable energy — no matter who produces it.”