Sestak Clarifies Controversial 'Earmark' Timeline

U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak tried to clarify his explanation from earlier this week about a $350,000 federal spending "earmark." (AP File Photo)

U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak reached out to PhillyClout this afternoon to clarify his explanation from earlier this week about a $350,000 federal spending "earmark" that has been seized on by his Republican opponent in the race for the U.S. Senate, former U.S. Rep. Pat Toomey.  Sestak told us Monday that he had no idea the constituent who requested the earmark in February in the name of the non-profit Thomas Paine Foundation of Media was also linked to a for-profit corporation, New Way Energy LLC in Aston.

Turns out that's not exactly correct.  Sestak just released a letter that he sent to the U.S. Department of Energy on April 12 that clearly connects the non-profit organization to the for-profit company.  Sestak also released the initial application for the funding, to pay for construction of a prototype for a vertical axis wind turbine, which has a less definitive connection between the non-profit and for-profit.

In the application, Thomas Paine Foundation founder Drew Devitt notes that "many of the employees of New Wave Energy (which will manufacture the VAWT demonstration model) are located" in Sestak's Congressional District.  What Devitt doesn't note is that he is the sole officer for both the non-profit and the for-profit.

Sestak said Devitt asked him after the earmark request was filed to write a letter of introduction to the Department of Energy.  Sestak said Devitt wrote the letter using a standard format from his Congressional office.  Here's the first line: "I am writing to introduce you to Drew Devitt, the founder and chairman of New Way Energy LLC, a company located in Aston, PA and suggest you meet with the app."  That letter goes on to say the project is being "developed in conjunction with [Devitt's] non-profit organization, the Thomas Paine Foundation.

Sestak said he "failed to catch in the letter" the connection between the non-profit and for-profit.  The U.S. House in March instituted a rule that earmarks can be made for non-profit groups but not for-profit companies.  "I just didn't put the two together," Sestak told us. "It was my error."