Eversource NH president Bill Quinlan is listed as one of 44 hosts for a fundraising reception for Gov. Chris Sununu on Thursday, which raised ethical questions among some opponents of the company’s controversial Northern Pass high-voltage transmission line project.
Eversource Energy is partners with Northern Pass Transmission in seeking to bring hydroelectricty from Hydro-Quebec from Pittsburg to Deerfield and on to the New England grid. Sununu was the only candidate for governor who spoke in favor of the project and has continued to tout its benefits since being elected.
According to the invitation to the fundraising evening, hosts will pay $1,000 per person and guests $500 each. The event is scheduled for 6 to 8 p.m. at the Bedford Village Inn in Bedford.
“Friends of Chris Sununu is legally permitted to accept personal, corporate, and PAC checks up to a maximum of $7,000,” the invitation says, with the word corporate in bold.
Sununu refused comment on Tuesday. His spokesman Michael Todd asked that InDepthNH.org’s questions be submitted Tuesday afternoon via email as to whether Quinlan’s donation or previous donations to Sununu from him or Eversource constituted a possible conflict of interest because of his support for Northern Pass.
Todd responded: “Thank you for the inquiry. I don’t have information regarding these questions. The Secretary of State publishes information in this regard that may be helpful to you.”
Reached by phone after, Todd said the email stood on its own.
Brian Tilton, a former radio talk show host who emceed last week’s circling of the statehouse by hundreds of opponents of Northern Pass, said he was concerned.
“This raises a serious ethical question for me,” Tilton said. “How can Bill Quinlan host a $1,000/head fundraiser (in addition to corporate, personal and PAC donations up to $7000/each) for a governor who has the power to appoint members of the Site Evaluation Committee as well as agency heads who are part of the Northern Pass review process?”
Northern Pass spokesperson Martin Murray said: “I’m sure Bill is pleased to support the Governor, in the same fashion as the dozens of other business leaders listed on the invitation. The SEC process has been ongoing since 2015 when we filed our application. It is a comprehensive and completely transparent process, and the Governor is not a party to it.”
Sununu was previously criticized for accepting nearly $18,950 in campaign donations from Eversource and employees. Eversource was also a $25,000 donor to Sununu’s inauguration fund.
The Site Evaluation Committee is in the beginning stages of a lengthy adjudicative process in which seven days of testimony have been heard with another two dozen days to go into August. The SEC will approve or deny Northern Pass’s application to build the $1.6 billion project and federal approval is also needed.
The Friends of Chris Sununu Committee filed to begin raising money for the 2018 election cycle with the Secretary of State’s office on Nov. 21, 2016, just shy of two weeks after Sununu was elected.
According to a law that went into effect in January, Sununu’s committee will have to report on fundraising to the Secretary of State’s office by June 7.