Update. OK so I am getting arch when connecting power... so much that the positive lead feels a little sticky to the board leads like its being welded by the arch.... so that tells me there is a short some where. Or a massive current draw. Continuity checks with the board disconnected tell me there is no direct ground to vcc short in the harness. So, I'm going component by component now and checking resistance. Anyone know what a good smoke unit should show for resistance?
If all components are good... only thing I can think of is a failure on the board. Maybe a bad rectifier as current is still being passed somewhere shown by the 300ma startup and 100ma draw after 30 sec or so....
Also, Bruce, yes anti static everything. My bench testing is done on a computer build station which even the bench is grounded. Wriststrap as well. Mat as well. My bench test is not done with the mth box, but this is more of a power on test before I waste the time to modify the chasis and install everything. All leads are wire nutted or soldered and shrink wrapped. No exposures. I haven't checked the tether yet. Is this an issue? Will perform continuity checks pin for pin tonight and let you know.
Thanks again for the responses everyone!