(written a few years ago, the sources were lost but easily obtainable for those looking)
Recently Heather Wilson helped pass a $391 billion Defense Appropriations bill which included $15.7 million for defense projects that will be conducted primarily in New Mexico.
According to her press release:
“The American military is the best equipped, best trained, and most capable in the world, and we’re proud of New Mexico’s important role in keeping us strong,” Wilson said. “New Mexico is a leader in military research and development, and these projects center on producing technologies that strengthen our national security.”
The Intelligence Appropriations are also contained in a classified annex to this Defense bill. Wilson chairs the Subcommittee on Technical and Tactical Intelligence on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
The largest of the five projects was $4.2 million for Qynergy Beta Energy Cells (BEC) for defense and intelligence applications. Fiscal year 2006 funding would complete the development phase and develop prototypes.
Heather Wilson’s connections to Qynergy
In a glowing report from the Albuquerque Journal, it was quoted, “Rep. Heather Wilson, R-N.M., who helped shepherd the funding into the bill, said she hoped the QynCell would help solve the growing demand for electricity by an increasingly digital military. “The problem is power that lasts a long time in unusual conditions like outer space and weird remote locations,” she said during an event at Qynergy’s North I-25 headquarters last week. “Sometimes, you just can’t go out and charge the batteries. There’s an immediate need in the military and the intelligence community for long-lasting power.”
There are several military uses for the QynCells, including the devices that protect unwanted tampering and reverse engineering of weapons if found in the hands of U.S. enemies.
The problem with these funds is they exacerbate the military dependence of the economy of New Mexico. The history of Qynergy is one of its military involvement despite presenting itself as an entrepreneurial model for economic development. It also shows the dependence of Heather Wilson on the defense industry.
According to opensecrets.org, who track campaign spending, Wilson received $28,000 from the defense industry for this years campaign alone. One example of this influence is the Congresswoman’s relationship to Qynergy and its CEO, Paul Shirley.
Qynergy was founded in 2001 by Paul Shirley with the purpose of developing technology transfer, or licensing products from public research for private profit. Paul Shirley has had long ties to the defense industry developing exotic weapons. A former engineer at Kirtland Air Force Base, he worked in the 1980’s on airborne lasers as part of the Strategic Defense Initiative. He later used this expertise to found SVS Inc. in 1993 with two others. It produced electro-optical systems and image processing software, mostly for defense-based contractors, and worked on Department of Defense laser systems, including the Airborne Laser and Space-based laser.
Shirley also helped bring the National Directed Energy Center to Albuquerque, and served as chairman to the Directed Energy Professional Society. He also served on Heather Wilson’s Science Advisory Committee and was a member of UNM’s Department of Electrical Engineering Advisory Board.
SVS was acquired by Boeing in 2000 for $20 million, becoming SVS Boeing, for Boeing was also heavily involved in the development of the Airborne Laser. After a brief hiatus, Shirley went on to found Qynergy. Qynergy Inc. began as a startup company dealing with technology transfer, taking technologies developed at taxpayer expense at Sandia Laboratories and the University of New Mexico and using them for private profit.
Qynergy was founded with start-up money from an organization called In-Q-Tel. In-Q-Tel is a highly secretive venture capital firm contracted by the CIA, which the spy agency founded in 1999 to invest in startup companies with technology potential in areas of interest to national security. It has so far invested over $150 million in 90 firms. It offers startups a steady source of contracts, solid financial backing, and access to other In-Q-Tel portfolio companies, something few others startup firms have.
In-Q-Tel typically invests between $1 to $3 million in startups. It gave $2 million to Qynergy to develop its Qyn-Cell technology, which had the potential to power long-lasting batteries and miniature and micro applications, mainly for defense applications. The Qyn-Cell absorbs beta particles, emitted from decaying radioactive material, and then converts their energy into electricity that can power small devices like sensors.
This In-Q-Tel funding was also helped by Shirley’s relationship with Arizona State University in Tempe, where he worked with a university group that helped him in getting Qyn-Cell into a marketable product. The president of Arizona State University at the time, Michael Crow, was also on the board of In-Q-Tel. The firm gave an additional $2 million to Qynergy in 2003.
Shirley has long been tied to Republican politics, especially with Heather Wilson. In 2003 he served on a host committee for Vice President Dick Cheney when he arrived for a fundraiser for Wilson.
In May 2004 Qynergy received its first major defense contract. $3.1 million from the Air Force Research Lab, to develop long-lasting power sources for the Lab’s Space Vehicles Directorate. With the assistance of Rep. Heather Wilson, an additional $1 million was secured to this contract in January 2005.
According to opensecrets.org, Paul Shirley gave Heather Wilson $9,100 from 2000 to today. Adding his wife Wendy’s contributions in this same period, it approaches $14,000. Other Qynergy employees who gave to Wilson include:
*Todd Bisio, Vice President of Operations, who contributed $1000 to Wilson’s campaign in 2004,
*Michael Hollis, who temporarily replaced Shirley as Qynergy CEO until Shirley reacquired that position later, gave $1000 to Wilson’s campaign in 2005.
In return for their generous gifts, Qynergy received a total of $8.3 million in defense contracts because of programs Wilson advocated for. This does not include the nearly $4 million received from In-Q-Tel as a start-up. It seems Qynergy knows where to invest its money for greatest return, the public coffers in the form of military spending. They are making money a true entrepreneurial way, having the public pay for it.