Biden administration Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm has faced multiple ethics complaints over the course of her tenure, some of which deal with conflicts of interest between her work as energy secretary and personal investments in the Ford Motor Company.
Granholm recently admitted to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee that her husband holds Ford stock, despite having denied any conflict of interest or individual stock ownership during her nomination hearing. She also appointed a Ford lobbyist to her advisory board shortly before Ford received a $9.2 billion loan from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).
Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), ranking member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, wrote a letter to DOE Inspector General Teri Donaldson indicating that he thought Secretary Granholm had committed ethics violations. In addition to the conflicts of interest regarding stock ownership, Barrasso pointed out another incident during which Granholm actively promoted Ford products on her official Twitter account.
“Additionally, Secretary Granholm’s June 9th letter states her husband retained ownership of Ford stock during a period of time in which she directly promoted Ford and its new Mustang,” Barrasso wrote.
Barrasso cites other “questionable ethical conduct” Granholm engaged in, including ownership of Proterra stock while promoting the company, Hatch Act violations, and violations of the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act, which prohibits members of Congress from using nonpublic information derived from the individual’s position for personal benefit.
“Her misrepresentation before the Committee on April 20, 2023, in addition to her failure to disclose her husband’s conflicting stock, follows multiple instances of questionable ethical conduct since her tenure as Secretary, including but not limited to: her retention of Proterra stock while President Biden and Vice President Harris overtly promoted the company in their official capacity, her own promotion of Proterra in violation of the Biden Ethics Pledge, her promotion of the Democratic Party in her official capacity in violation of the Hatch Act, and her nine-time violation of the STOCK Act,” Barrasso said.
History of Questionable Ethics
Granholm has a history of questionable behavior, including past incidents of conflict of interest during her time as governor of Michigan from 2003 to 2010, says AnneMarie Schieber, research fellow and managing editor of Health Care News, published by The Heartland Institute. Schieber worked in Michigan media during Granholm’s tenure as governor and says Granholm’s green pet projects harmed Michigan taxpayers.
“While she was governor, Secretary Granholm had a cozy relationship with all the automakers and, in fact, her official portrait at the state capitol has her standing by a table with a model of a Chevrolet Volt,” Schieber said. “Granholm promoted environmentalist projects during her governorship by granting hundreds of millions of Michigan taxpayer dollars to green energy companies, promising more than 1,700 jobs would be created, but despite the money being spent, only a third of the jobs materialized.
“Many of the companies subsidized shortly thereafter went bankrupt or simply never delivered the promised products,” Schieber said.
Granholm’s legacy as governor was a string of failures followed by a comfortable high-paying position at Berkeley that has become a longstanding trend for government officials, Schieber continued.
“She left behind a legacy of green energy boondoggles, at taxpayer expense, before being term-limited out and heading off to Berkeley, where she and her husband, a “consultant,” secured two nice teaching gigs, basically part-time work for about $300,000,” Schieber said. “These climbs to the top via the government and its rent seekers are why many Americans refer to our civil servants as ‘the ruling class.’”
‘Shut the DOE Down’
As is too common for elites in government, Schieber says it is unlikely that Granholm will see any serious penalties, or removal from office, over her violations. The DOE will also continue to make life harder for average Americans through regulations on appliance energy efficiency and other standards.
“Secretary Granholm will likely get a slap on the wrist, similar to the treatment she received for taking her time to fire her Deputy Assistant Secretary of Spent Fuel Sam Briton for stealing suitcases from airports,” Schieber said. “Meanwhile, her department exerts plenty of ‘energy’ in trying to find ways to make household appliances more expensive for people.”
The DOE itself may have similarly overstayed its welcome in government, Schieber says, as it appears to exist mainly to enrich individuals like Granholm, and the companies that benefit from programs like Granholm’s electric vehicle push.
“It, like much of the government, exists to advance the interests of the powerful few,” Schieber said. It’s past time to shut the DOE down.”
Linnea Lueken (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a research fellow with the Arthur B. Robinson Center on Climate and Environmental Policy at The Heartland Institute.
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