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Update on Leaf Clean Energy



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Last Wednesday evening on the Corner, I wrote this post about the connections between Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic nominee for governor of Virginia, and Leaf Clean Energy Co., a firm headquartered at Ugland House in the Cayman Islands.

Shortly after its publication, we received a message from Leaf Clean Energy, describing the post as inaccurate. Leaf Chief Financial Officer Jim Potochny made the following statements:

1. Terry McAuliffe does not have and has never had any commercial relationship of any kind with Leaf Clean Energy Company or any affiliate of Leaf Clean Energy Company.

2. Any previous reporting to the contrary by the Tidewater News is factually incorrect and we have written to the publication to correct the article. We presume the author was mistaken or that Mr. McAuliffe was misquoted.

3. Leaf Clean Energy Company has no involvement in the Franklin Pellet project.

4. Peter O’Keefe is a non-executive director of Leaf Clean Energy Company and also happens to be a principle [sic] in CMI. Mr. O’Keefe is the only connection between CMI and Leaf Clean Energy Company, and there is no other commercial relationship of any kind between Leaf Clean Energy Company and CMI.

Additionally, we received the following message from the McAuliffe campaign:

The story National Review posted last night on Leaf Clean Energy is false.  Terry does not and never has had any role with that company as an officer, director, investor, shareholder or in any other capacity.  One story several years ago inaccurately stated that he did.  That is not correct.  Other media outlets have been fed this same false information and chosen not to run it due to its inaccuracy.  Please correct the story or remove it completely. 

Herein a review of what we know:

Terry McAuliffe does not have and has never had any commercial relationship of any kind with Leaf Clean Energy Company or any affiliate of Leaf Clean Energy Company. As detailed in the original post, the Virginia State Corporation Commission names McAuliffe as the Registered Agent for Capital Management International (CMI), and it lists his home address in McLean, Va., as the Principal Office of CMI. In turn, CMI (which describes itself as “a diversified investment vehicle focusing on renewable energy” continues to list Leaf Clean Energy as a Partner/Affiliate on its website, as of this morning at 1:40 a.m. EST. After we asked the McAuliffe campaign to clarify this relationship, we received the following message from Peter O’Keefe on Thursday evening: “I included Leaf Clean Energy because I have a personal affiliation with the company. Terry does not have any affiliation with Leaf and never has. Leaf is not a partner of CMI.”

Terry does not and never has had any role with that company. . . . One story several years ago inaccurately stated that he did. That is not correct. Other media outlets have been fed this same false information and chosen not to run it due to its inaccuracy. The “one story” apparently referred to by the McAuliffe campaign ran in the online edition of the Tidewater News on July 31, 2010. The paper quoted McAuliffe as follows: “‘We clearly are the leader,’ McAuliffe said of his group, the Leaf Clean Energy Co.”

However, the Virginia Daily Press also named McAuliffe as a leader of Leaf Clean Energy Company, in no fewer than four articles published from September 2010 to January 2011. All four articles deal with the same subject as the News piece: the refit of a paper mill in Franklin, Va., for manufacturing biomass fuel pellets:

One of those proposals came from Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat who was defeated in a bid for his party’s gubernatorial nomination last year. In late July, he said his company, Leaf Clean Energy Co., was a final contender for the mill site in southern Isle of Wight. McAuliffe’s proposal calls for refitting the paper mill as a wood-burning power plant. — “Company Eyeing Finalists for Shuttered Isle of Wight Plant,” Sept. 24, 2010

Although she declined to identify the companies that submitted proposals, Virginia Democrat Terry McAuliffe said in July that his company, Leaf Clean Energy Co., was one of the finalists. McAuliffe wants to refit the paper mill as a wood-burning power plant. — “Vacant Paper Mill Eyed by Green Energy Manufacturers,” Oct. 22, 2010

Virginia Democrat Terry McAuliffe said in July that his company, Leaf Clean Energy Co., was one of three finalists. McAuliffe wants to refit the paper mill as a wood-burning power plant. — “International Paper Ready to Share Information With Isle of Wight,” Dec. 1, 2010

While Wadsworth has declined to discuss the proposals, Virginia Democrat Terry McAuliffe said last July that his company, Leaf Clean Energy Co., is one of the finalists. McAuliffe wants to refit the paper mill as a wood-burning power plant. — “Company Still Mum on Isle of Wight Mill’s Future,” Jan. 26, 2011

Leaf Clean Energy Company has no involvement in the Franklin Pellet project. The articles above all named Leaf as a participant in McAuliffe and O’Keefe’s bid on the Franklin mill site. I have spoken with the reporters concerned at both the Daily Press and the Tidewater News and have confirmed that the later Press articles did not use the News piece as a source. To believe that both papers independently made exactly the same factual error — naming McAuliffe as a leader of Leaf Clean Energy, and naming Leaf as a participant in the mill bid — strains credulity.

Peter O’Keefe is a non-executive director of Leaf Clean Energy Company and also happens to be a principle [sic] in CMI.  Mr. O’Keefe is the only connection between CMI and Leaf Clean Energy Company, and there is no other commercial relationship of any kind between Leaf Clean Energy Company and CMI.  As noted above, CMI describes Leaf Clean Energy as a “Partner/Affiliate.” Moreover, O’Keefe (whom McAuliffe once jokingly referred to as “my Irish consigliere”) does not just “happen to be a principal” at CMI; he is the only person listed on the company’s website, where he is described — notwithstanding the fact that CMI is registered in the name and at the home of Terry McAuliffe — as the company’s “Founder and Managing Principal.” (After the Tidewater News inquired in May about the nature of McAuliffe’s involvement in the controversial fuel-pellet project, the latter’s name promptly vanished from CMI’s website.) Additionally, O’Keefe is listed as a nonexecutive director but appears to play an important role in Leaf Clean Energy; he is described by multiple sources as the person responsible for media relations at Leaf, and a receptionist referred my questions to him during my reporting for the original post. (O’Keefe did not respond until Thursday, as noted above.)

To sum up:

1. Leaf Clean Energy is listed as a “Partner/Affiliate” of CMI, although O’Keefe insists that this does not mean that Leaf is either a partner or an affiliate.

2. Terry McAuliffe, as far as the Virginia State Corporations Commission is concerned, is CMI.

3.  Additionally, the principal of CMI is a close friend of McAuliffe’s, a business partner with him on the Franklin Pellets project, and an important figure in the operations of Leaf.

4.  Multiple news sources described McAuliffe as a leading representative of Leaf at the outset of the Franklin mill negotiations.



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