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Updated on May 14, 2010

Once A Partner, Always a 'Friend"

Cape Wind is a study in irony. It is a green energy project that will disrupt the open waters of Nantucket Sound. Its fuel, wind, is free but its energy will cost more than double the conventional energy mix from the outset. It seems to be at the extreme forward edge of environmental progressiveness but it found favor wth the George W. Bush administration. What is the magic that Jim Gordon, Cape Wind's CEO has found? Or, perhaps there is black magic or no magic at all, just old fashioned political influence. What is the secret to Cape wind's alchemy? You be the judge.

As we saw in part 1 of this story Jim Gordon had two friends from the Roosevelt family Theodore Rooselvelt IV and his son, T.R. V on his side. They both worked at the failed Lehman Brothers investment bank and now work at Barclay's, the British banking house which bought Lehman out of bankruptcy. And, there was a third figure at Lehman who may have been helplful to Gordon, George Herbert Walker IV, a second cousin to George W. Bush. In terms of the ethics of their conduct during the first decade of the twenty-first century, until their bankruptcy and acquistion by Barclay's in 2008, Lehman Brothers was more a sewer than an investment bank. They were heavily involved in creating and marketing what are now gently called toxic assets. If their judgment about offshore wind power is as accurate as their analysis of subprime mortgage bonds and other failed instruments was, Cape Wind could be just the beginning of a national energy crash, a black hole into which public subsidies, tax advantages and substantial electric rate increases are poured.

Gordon's connections at Lehman brothers explain a lot, perhaps. T. R. V was in a position to arrange a smooth transition from the Bush White House to the Obama White House. But, there is one more Gordon connection to the most powerful office in the world that is very entertaining, frightening and simply factual. Jim Gordon had a business partner in at least one of his power plants who is a first cousin to George W. Bush, his mother being a sister to George H. W. Bush. This man is on record as having been an overnight guest at both the White House and Camp David. Goerge H. W. Bush spoke at his son's commencement exercises at Deerfield Academy in 1997. George Bush the elder and the younger appeared in Washington Post photograph emerging together with their wives from a Washington, D. C. church after the young man's wedding. As I said in Part 1, the Bush family is tight, almost fanatical in their practice of family loyalty.

Gordon's partner was Alexander "Hap" Ellis III. His son is Alexander Ellis IV. Roman numerals are all the rage in the Bush, Ellis and Walker families, apparently. Those who bear them after their names become a kind of living memorial to the lower numbers who preceded them, making it difficult to ignore or forget the greatness of their lineage and the assumed privilege that accompanies it. This gaggle of III's, IVs and Vs appear intelligent due to their generally superior educations, George W. Bush's sometimes undisguised foolishness notwithstanding. Hap Ellis' son (Harvard College and Harvard Business School) worked at the World Bank in Washington and was for the final two years of his second cousin's presidency he was W's frequent and only companion on the President's weekly two hour bike ride. Tight family indeed.

Harvard, Princeton and Yale rank high on their list of preferred schools along with an A list of preparatory schools and academies. Public education is simply not in the cards for these folks. In this they seem to have much in common with other American dynasties such as the Kennedy and Rockefeller clans. Hap Ellis holds an MBA from Yale but his undergraduate degree is from a small school in Colorado, Colorado College. Other distinguished alumni of Colorado College are Dick Cheney's wife and daughter and Ken Salazar, Obama's Secretary of the Interior. In fact, the Ivy League is so well represented in recent administrations, both Republican and Democrat that the White House may soon have to be covered in ivy.

Jim Gordon, the son of a grocer in Boston, holds a bachelor's degree from Boston University in film and broadcasting. How he and Hap Ellis even met each other is not clear to me. Except...

Hap Ellis was for four years a senior executive with Kenetech Corporation, a California renewable energy company whose principle business appears to have been in the wind industry. Kenetech went bankrupt in 1996 and was successfully reorganized. Ellis had left the company the preceding year and apparently returned to New England. By then Jim Gordon had been a major force behind the deregulation of energy; separating electric generation from transmission. For twenty years he had, from a tiny start-up using his personal savings, built a strong business named Energy Management Inc. (EMI) which dealt in energy related products and services. EMI had grown to become a substantial company dealing in the retrofitting of older power plants with upgraded equipment and technology. Gordon had learned the energy business from the ground up. When deregulation was completed he immediately went into the merchant power business building six gas fired power plants and selling them for huge profits, all by the year 2000.

Hap Ellis somehow met and became a partner of Jim Gordon in at least one of these power plants in Maine. When Gordon and Ellis sold their generating deal they apparently did so largely for stock in the buyer company, BayCorp Holdings. They also joined BayCorp's board of directors and remained there until late in 2005. BayCorp owned a fifteen percent interest in the nuclear power plant at Seabrook, New Hampshire. After BayCorp sold its stake in Seabrook Ellis joined a merchant banking firm in Boston which has become Rockport Capital Partners, an influential venture capital firm with special interest in advanced energy technologies. Ellis is a general partner. Rockport's leader is a man named Wilbur James, who is also a graduate of Colorado College.

Everywhere one turns in Jim Gordon's life there are rich, powerful people, people whose backgrounds are aristocratic, wealthy and who themselves are very influential. Gordon's own wealth is probably north of $100 million, perhaps far north. He lives in a tall brick townhouse in Louisberg Square on Boston's Beacon Hill, a stone's throw from the Massachusetts State House and across the street from Senator John Kerry. Gordon's house even boasts an elevator. For all his recent whining about how much he has spent promoting Cape Wind he is and lives very rich. He paid for each of his two nearby condominium parkings spaces what ordinary people would pay for an entire house.

So, now we know who are the most likely people to have gained for Jim Gordon the deepest possible access to the most powerful people in American government.

Hap Ellis is certainly capable of having added some additional influence to this mix. He and his mother, (Remember her, George Herbert Walker's sister?) both held seats on the Board of Directors of the Massachusetts Audubon Society. Hap Ellis remains on the Mass Audubon's Finance and Management Committee. Mass Audubon's initial response to Gordon's proposed Cape Wind project was very negative. Formal comments they made to federal and state regulators projected annual bird mortality caused by the turbines to be well into the thousands with many among already threatened species. They now deny ever having said any such thing, but their comments and evaluation are part of the written record in this case. Then, mysteriously and very suddenly, Mass Audubon became a strong strong supporter of Cape Wind and so they remain even now. Could it be that Gordon had a way of influencing Mass Audubon staff and scientists?

Also, Hap Ellis has two brothers, John and Joe. Joe is Josiah Wear Ellis. Remember Lucretia Wear from part 1? John Ellis was managing the issues desk for Fox News on election night in 2000. He spent lengthy periods of time talking on his telephone with both George W. Bush and Dick Cheney and after midnight he announced to the world that Florida had voted for Bush. Of course, the votes had not yet been fully counted, but that appears to have been a minor detail. Instantly every major news organization in the country pig-piled onto Ellis's outrageous announcement. Only CNN held off joining the chorus. And, John Ellis also wrote editorials for the Boston Globe for years. Does this explain why the Boston Globe has been such a strong Cape Wind supporter?

Finally, why would the Denver Post have jumped on the Cape Wind bandwagon? Joe Ellis has worked for the Denver Broncos for several years. He was their director of operations for some time and recently became CEO. Would the Denver Broncos have any influence with the Denver Post?

People of influence surround Jim Gordon. Until the mid nineteen nineties one of his nearby neighbors on Beacon Hill was Mark Roosevelt, whose cousin Susan Roosevelt was married to Massachusetts governor William Weld. Weld was governor from 1991 into 1997 but left office in his second term, probably because he had simply become bored with the job, but also to allow his Lieutenant governor to stand as acting governor and thus help his chances of being elected governor in his own right. He was and during his tenure various Massachusetts agencies that could have killed Cape Wind, but did not. In fact, thy remained blissfully silent.

Susan Roosevelt Weld, George Herbert Walker IV, Theodore Roosevelt IV and V, Alexander "Hap" Ellis III...go ahead, tell me it is all just coincidence.


Copyright 2010 By Peter A. Kenney


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    • P. A. Kenney profile imageAUTHOR

      P. A. Kenney 

      8 years ago from Cape cod, Massachusetts

      Here is the second of three posts.



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