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Million Greenback Donation To Trump’s Inaugural Comes Below Scrutiny

Bellefonte Nuclear Power Plant in Alabama

Bellefonte Nuclear Energy Plant in Alabama

WASHINGTON (Internet) ― Actual property mogul Franklin Haney contributed $1 million to President Donald Trump’s inaugural committee and all he’s obtained to point out for the cash is the glare of a federal investigation.

The contribution from Haney, a prolific political donor, got here as he was in search of regulatory approval and monetary help from the federal government for his long-shot bid to amass the mothballed Bellefonte Nuclear Energy Plant in northeastern Alabama. Greater than two years later, he nonetheless hasn’t closed the deal.

His story is a well-recognized one in Washington, the place lobbyists and rich donors use their checkbooks to attempt to sway politicians. It’s a world Haney is accustomed to working in and one which Trump got here into workplace pledging to upend. But Trump has left in place lots of the acquainted methods to wield affect.

Haney’s hefty donation to Trump’s inaugural committee is being scrutinized by federal prosecutors in New York who’re investigating the committee’s funds. Their probe is targeted partially on whether or not donors obtained advantages after making contributions.

Trump’s former private lawyer, Michael Cohen, has given prosecutors info relating to Haney, his son and enterprise affiliate, Frank Haney Jr., and the nuclear plant venture, in accordance with an individual conversant in what Cohen informed the authorities. The particular person was not licensed to talk publicly and requested anonymity.

Haney had briefly employed Cohen to assist get hold of cash for the Bellefonte venture from potential buyers, together with the Center Jap nation of Qatar. Cohen is now serving a three-year jail sentence for tax evasion, mendacity to Congress and marketing campaign finance violations.

Haney and his lawyer didn’t reply to interview requests.

Prosecutors are also inspecting whether or not foreigners unlawfully contributed to the committee. Federal prosecutors in Manhattan issued a subpoena final 12 months in search of a variety of economic information from the committee, together with any “communications regarding or relating to the possibility of donations by foreign nationals.”

The inaugural committee has denied wrongdoing and mentioned its funds had been totally accounted for.

Haney, 79, has beforehand confronted accusations that his political reward giving is geared toward cultivating affect. An investigation by Home Republicans within the late 1990s alleged that Haney’s cash and his political pull with senior Clinton administration officers helped him to get the Federal Communications Fee to maneuver into an workplace constructing that he had a serious stake in. Haney denied any wrongdoing and the Justice Division declined to pursue the matter.

However he was charged in 1999 with funneling about $100,000 in unlawful contributions to President Invoice Clinton, Vice President Al Gore and different politicians, then acquitted. A federal prosecutor described Haney as a classy fundraiser who hoped to impress potential enterprise shoppers together with his entry to elected officers, like Clinton and Gore.

Haney’s family-owned actual property enterprise donated 1000’s of {dollars} in 2013 and 2015 to political motion committees that supported Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley, who later beneficial that the nuclear plant Haney needed to purchase be put up on the market. Haney additionally contributed to a nonprofit created to advertise Bentley’s agenda. The Republican governor resigned in 2017 as he confronted impeachment proceedings after an alleged affair with an aide.

Along with the investigation into Haney’s contribution to the Trump inaugural committee, Haney is in an unrelated authorized battle with the nuclear plant’s proprietor, the Tennessee Valley Authority. One other Haney firm, Nuclear Improvement LLC, has filed a lawsuit in federal court docket accusing the TVA, the nation’s largest public utility, of illegally blocking the plant’s sale to him on the final minute. The utility has argued it couldn’t full the transaction as a result of Haney didn’t get the Nuclear Regulatory Fee’s approval for switch of the development permits.

A tentative Bellefonte sale in November 2016 concerned two partially constructed nuclear reactors and the supporting cooling towers, a number of different buildings and greater than 1,000 acres of land on the Tennessee River. Haney put down $22 million and had till November 2018 to finish the $111-million sale.

On Nov. 29, the day earlier than the sale was to be closed, the TVA scrapped the deal, declaring that Haney’s firm had not but secured regulatory approval as required by the Atomic Power Act. Haney filed a breach of contract lawsuit.

In early April, about 5 months after Nuclear Improvement submitted its software for switch of the development permits, the regulatory fee’s employees informed the corporate it wanted to submit extra technical particulars earlier than it might proceed.

Edwin Lyman, a nuclear energy professional on the Union of Involved Scientists, mentioned the response mirrored skepticism about whether or not Haney’s firm “is serious about or capable of actually undertaking this project or just wants to put the license in its pocket for purposes unknown.”

However Lyman added the five-member nuclear regulatory board is dominated by Trump appointees and should not wish to be seen by Congress and the Trump administration as throwing up roadblocks to a nuclear energy enlargement.

Haney’s Nuclear Improvement firm additionally has utilized to the U.S. Power Division for financing help on the venture. The division mentioned it considers the mortgage software course of to be “business sensitive” and declined to remark.

Stephen Smith, government director of the nonprofit Southern Alliance for Clear Power, mentioned Haney faces too many technical and monetary hurdles to beat.

For instance, Bellefonte’s never-completed nuclear reactors are a long time outdated and are of a novel design that has by no means obtained an working license within the U.S. earlier than. He in contrast Bellefonte to a Ford Pinto, a 1970s-era car with severe engineering flaws. Smith mentioned it’s “extraordinarily unlikely” Bellefonte might be allowed to function.

Internet author Jim Mustian in New York and researchers Rhonda Shafner and Jennifer Farrar in New York contributed to this report.

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