Debicella claim: Himes 'wasted' $3 million in stimulus grant, then said he didn’t
Dan Debicella of Shelton, the Republican challenging U.S. Rep. Jim Himes for Congress, said Monday morning that Jim Himes “wasted” $3 million in taxpayer money and then tried to distance himself from the stimulus-related money for a yacht and ferry builder.
Debicella held a press conference Monday morning at the site of the former Derecktor Shipyards in Bridgeport’s East End. At the political event, he said Himes — a Democrat in his third term — had “wasted taxpayer money on special interest friends, destroyed jobs in Bridgeport, and attempted to cover it up.”
A new television ad by Debicella addresses this accusation and calls Himes “part of the problem now.”
A message left with Himes’ office in Washington, D.C. on Monday morning was not immediately returned. A search of Himes' congressional website turned up nothing about Derecktor, which builds yachts, ferries and other commercial vessels.
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View the Debicella campaign ad on Derecktor:
Himes voted to give Derecktor nearly $3 million in government assistance in 2009, which the company received that August. Derecktor filed for bankruptcy in 2012 — for the second time in five years — leading to the loss of 300 jobs at its Bridgeport location.
Issue came up in 2012 debate
When Himes was asked about Derecktor during a 2012 debate — after the company went bankrupt — he said: “I had nothing to do with Derecktor. That was before I was in office. I had nothing to do with it.”
“The timeline here is very clear,” Debicella said. “In 2009, Jim Himes voted to give $3 million to Derecktor Shipyards, and then came in early 2010 for a photo opportunity with some of the executives. Then in 2012, Derecktor Shipyards went bankrupt. Taxpayers lost all $3 million and Bridgeport lost 300 jobs.
"But that’s not the end of it because in 2012, Jim Himes then denied knowing anything about it," Debicella said. "He said in one of the debates, quote, I had nothing to do with Director Shipyards, that was before I was in office.”
Debicella said this is a case of Himes “not only wasting million of dollars in taxpayer money — costing Fairfield County 300 jobs — but also then trying to cover up his involvement.”
Part of the stimulus package
The 2012 debate was between Himes and Steve Obsitnik, the Republican candidate that year.
During the debate, Obsitnik said that the $3 million in stimulus money given to the luxury yacht company that later went bankrupt was an example of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act’s ineffectiveness, according to coverage of the debate in the Stamford Advocate.
Himes, at the debate, said that the money was given before he was in office. But a review of the stimulus program shows that Derecktor was awarded $2.947 million for a new dry-dock facility. That money, according to www.recovery.gov, was awarded seven months after Himes and President Barack Obama took office.
"Derecktor Shipyards is a perfect of example of why Connecticut is 50th out of 50 in job creation,” Debicella said later. “Jim Himes thinks the way to create jobs in Connecticut is to give millions of taxpayer dollars to mega-yacht builders so he can take a photo op, while I believe it is to reform the tax code, help the long-term unemployed, and empower small business.”
Records from Himes’ Flickr account show he took a tour and photos at Derecktor Shipyards on Jan. 8, 2010. Himes was elected in 2008.
“Creating jobs takes more than a photo op,” said Debicella, who is a Bridgeport native. “We need adults in the room in Washington. We need leadership that will stop with the photo ops and talking points and put forward real solutions. That is why I have put forward a detailed plan to grow our economy and expand the middle class.”
Debicella is a former two-term state senator from Shelton. He also ran against Himes for Congress in 2010 and lost.
Himes represents the Fourth Congressional District, which includes much of Fairfield County, including most of the city of Shelton. He lives in Greenwich. Some of Shelton is in the Third Congressional District.