Watchdog Files Lawsuit Demanding Records of Granholm’s Energy Consultant Business
- February 10, 2022
Action comes in the wake of several possible ethics scandals at DOE
Today, watchdog Protect the Public’s Trust announced a federal lawsuit against the Department of Energy to obtain records related to Secretary Jennifer Granholm. The Energy Secretary, who has been the subject of multiple ethics complaints in her role, and her husband were partners in Granholm Mulhern Associates (GMA), a firm that provided consulting services to green energy businesses.
With DOE poised to handle tens of billions in additional taxpayer funds, concerns over potential conflicts of interest at the agency rise to an even greater level. The Energy Secretary’s actions involving Proterra, a company on whose board she served, highlight that potential.
Since PPT submitted the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request involved in the lawsuit, Secretary Granholm has been involved in a series of incidents that generated ethics complaints. In October, Protect the Public’s Trust filed a complaint with the Office of Special Counsel alleging Ms. Granholm engaged in prohibited political activity during an appearance at a campaign event for a Democratic candidate for governor of Virginia. The next month, PPT raised concerns that the Energy Secretary may have inappropriately participated in an event announcing grants that would likely benefit Proterra, the electric vehicle component manufacturer.
Secretary Granholm’s ties to Proterra have been the subject of widespread concern. She continued to hold stock options in the firm even as the President and others actively promoted Proterra. She eventually divested the holdings in a transaction that netted her a reported $1.6 million but that also raised additional questions.
Her apparent ethical lapses did not end there. Recent media reports indicate that Secretary Granholm may have “violated a federal conflicts-of-interest and transparency law by improperly reporting up to a quarter-million dollars in stock sales.”
In her signed Ethics Agreement, Ms. Granholm pledged to limit activity in GMA “to managing their brokerage accounts and profit-sharing defined contribution plans.” In its FOIA, PPT sought records related to conversations regarding the firm, her husband, and their clients. One of Secretary Granholm’s top deputies has also been the subject of multiple complaints over apparent conflicts of interest with her former employer. A FOIA for records around these complaints was the subject of a previous PPT lawsuit against DOE.
“Considering all the possible ethics missteps that we and others have brought to light at DOE, one would think they would want to be even more transparent about these issues,” stated Michael Chamberlain, Director of Protect the Public’s Trust. “But so far we’ve had to resort to litigation to force the transparency the American public deserves. Protect the Public’s Trust will continue to press to shine the light on the activities of those at the highest levels of public service.”