US House candidates clash over tax credit

Bass questioned about stock buy

By Kathy McCormack
Associated Press / October 15, 2010

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CONCORD, N.H. — A former Republican congressman who’s running for his old job defended himself yesterday against accusations by his Democratic opponent that he created a tax credit while serving in the House to benefit a wood pellet company in which he owns stock.

Charlie Bass called Ann McLane Kuster’s allegation ridiculous during a debate yesterday in Concord. The two are running for the open Second Congressional District seat.

It’s been vacated by Democrat Paul Hodes, who’s running for the US Senate.

“That kind of self-dealing, that kind of special interest is a mistake. It’s not needed in Washington,’’ Kuster said about Bass’s association with New England Wood Pellet in Jaffrey. She also accused him of setting up a meeting in 2006 — his last year in Congress — with then-Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman and Steven Walker, president of the company, who is married to Bass’s niece. The meeting was mentioned in a 2006 issue of a newsletter by the Pellet Fuels Institute.

Bass, a member of the company’s board of managers, has denied setting up such a meeting. He said he invested in the company in 2007, after he lost a reelection bid to Hodes. He had served six terms before that.

Bass, who has been a consultant to alternative energy companies in the past four years, reminded Kuster during the Concord debate that she once said pellet fuels are the jobs of today, not of tomorrow.

“I have had the courage to step out and put my money where my mouth is,’’ Bass said. “I had no interest in this company until I was out of Congress. And frankly, I’m proud of that interest.’’

But the $500,000 worth of stock was reported in financial disclosure forms in 2006, as mentioned in a story first reported yesterday by The Telegraph of Nashua. Bass told the Associated Press in an interview before the debate that he had made a mistake on the forms.

“For some reason, I don’t recall, I put 2006 — one number was wrong, it should have said ‘7’ instead of ‘6,’ ’’ Bass said. “I have copied the stock certificate, which is dated Jan. 7, 2007. And so that’s the end of the story, there’s nothing else to it.’’

Bass also said the tax credit amendment he offered as part of the 2005 energy bill when it was passed by Congress — the first broad overhaul of energy policies in years — was not specific to any particular kind of renewable energy. “It was wind and solar, and biomass and switchgrass, and everything else,’’ he said. The legislation offered tax breaks for energy companies, renewable energy sources, and promotion of efficiency.

The debate, sponsored by AARP and the Greater Concord Chamber of Congress, also covered health care, Social Security, jobs, and the war in Afghanistan.

On Social Security, Kuster said she was opposed to privatizing it. Bass said all options should be on the table for preserving it. He suggested a bipartisan, national commission of elected officials and outside experts to bring a plan to Congress to protect it.

In a friendlier moment during which the candidates agreed on the importance of having access to home- and community-based care services, Bass said he wanted to salute Kuster’s mother, Susan McLane, a Republican state legislator who died in 2005.

“I knew her,’’ Bass said. “I campaigned with her. She was a wonderful person. I knew the work you did.’’

“Thank you Charlie, I appreciate it,’’ Kuster said, then added jokingly, “She’d be shocked by your politics now.’’

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