Jonathan Read is the sort of businessman President Obama must have been thinking of when he said “You didn’t build that.” Read is the CEO of Ecotality, a company that manufactures electric car charging stations and has received hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars. The company part of an ongoing Congressional investigation. Lucky for those doing the investigating, Read has been known to have a big mouth over the years and bragged about being a “political beast” in the past.
On a July 2007 shareholder conference call, Ecotality CEO Jonathan Read put it bluntly: “I’m a political beast,” he told a shareholder, “and playing the political card is something that when the time is right we’re going to play very hard.” Asked when that time might be, Read answered, “you call in your chips when you have a specific project you want to go after.”
It wasn’t long before such a project emerged. In the fourth quarter of 2008, Ecotality shifted its lobbying strategy. Until then, it had devoted most of its lobbying muscle to “continu[ing the] competitive bid process for DOE testing,” in the words of its disclosure forms. During the Bush administration, Ecotality received contracts to test electric vehicle technology, and lobbying efforts were geared toward continuing that relationship.
In August of 2008, then-Sen. Barack Obama announced his goal to get 1 million electric vehicles on the road by 2015. Around that time, Ecotality’s lobbying efforts, previously confined to Congress and DOE, were expanded to the White House, and to include work on “DOE projects,” a slight but significant shift in the topic under discussion.
As Ecotality put it in a December 2008 SEC filing, “we believe the focus by the Obama Administration [on electric vehicles] will provide strong funding opportunities for us and our core technologies.”
In its push to secure that funding, Ecotality hired Ziemba-Waid Public Affairs, which touted Ecotality’s eventual $99.8 million award through DOE’s EV Project on its blog. The firm boasts a “deep knowledge of the Western and Washington, D.C. political landscape,” according to the website.
And that’s not all. Be sure to read the whole thing.
Oh, and Congress isn’t the only entity investigating Ecotality.
Update: Linked by Expose the Media – thanks!