Treadwell served a six-year stint as a board member for Ellicott Dredges, a company that manufactures dredging equipment, starting in 2003. Toward the end of his tenure in 2009, the company received a $1.76 million dollar grant for training and equipment upgrades, and in 2010, after he had left the board, the federal government used stimulus funds to buy a hydraulic dredge from the company for $4.1 million.
Running as a fiscal conservative, Treadwell has mocked the stimulus law. In February, his campaign released a cheeky statement “wishing [incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark] Begich a happy anniversary” on the five-year anniversary of his vote for it.
“We were told this package would help our economy and jump start businesses,” the statement said. “Now we know it's just another case of government spending too much and placing the price tag on the backs of future generations.”
Peter Bowe, the CEO of Ellicott Dredges, said the company's receipt of stimulus money shouldn't undermine Treadwell's bona fides as a fiscal conservative.
“As a supplier, we're not part of that decision to use or not use stimulus money for a particular procurement,” he said, regarding the company's decision to sell the hydraulic dredge.
As for the grant, Bowe said the company “did not support the concept of money being used in that way,” and that representatives met with a member of Congress to discuss their opposition to the move. But when it became apparent that the stimulus was a done deal, they decided to apply for grant money.
“We felt it was an appropriate response to make an application so that we would get it rather than our competition,” he said.
Bowe added that the company’s management, and not its board members — such as Treadwell — made the decision to apply for the grant.
Tom Intorcio, a spokesman for Treadwell’s campaign, stressed that Treadwell was a "non-executive board member" from 2003 to 2009.
"The company’s dealings with the federal government were executive decisions, not board decisions," he said in a statement. "Ellicott, like many American shipyards received a small amount of stimulus funding through what was a competitive process. The company continues to help maintain American leadership in this growing industry around the world."
Some fiscal conservatives are critical.
David Williams, president of the Taxpayer Protection Alliance, said Treadwell is hypocritical for criticizing the stimulus after serving on the board of one of its beneficiaries.
“If you’re a fiscal conservative, you’re not just a fiscal conservative when you’re running for office,” he said. “It’s part of your DNA and who you are, and there should have been some recognition by him at the time that this isn’t right.”
And Pete Sepp, the executive vice president of the National Taxpayers Union, said any affiliation with companies that took stimulus funds will raise eyebrows.
“More than a few companies received stimulus dollars but given the economic and fiscal disappointment over the program — especially for conservatives — even claiming a degree or two of separation from a government grant won't stop the questions from coming,” he emailed. “Although three Republicans in the Senate voted for the stimulus the whole scheme is known as one of Obama's signature initiatives and being associated with it is a serious political liability.”
Treadwell is running against Dan Sullivan, former Alaska attorney general, and Joe Miller, who ran unsuccessfully against Sen. Lisa Murkowski in 2010. Sullivan has been leading and Miller has consistently taken third place in the polls.
According to Alaska publication Newsminer.com, a recent poll from Hellenthal and Associates showed Sullivan leading Treadwell by 4.3 percent. The primary is on Aug. 19.