Watchdog Seeks Investigation of Possible Ethics Violations by Energy Secretary Granholm
- November 12, 2021
Complaint is the latest in a series of ethics concerns arising during Granholm’s tenure
Protect the Public’s Trust (PPT), a federal watchdog group, filed a complaint today detailing allegations of ethical misconduct by Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm. In the complaint, PPT alleges Secretary Granholm committed ethics violations related to electric vehicle component manufacturer Proterra, where she formerly served as a Board member. Today’s complaint follows on the heels of several Hatch Act complaints against the embattled Secretary, including one by PPT, as well as multiple ethics complaints against one of her top lieutenants.
Granholm served on Proterra’s Board of Directors from March of 2017 until her confirmation as Energy Secretary in February of this year. Her relationship with Proterra made headlines earlier this year when President Biden promoted Proterra’s work in a widely-covered virtual tour of its Greenville, South Carolina facility. As the President was touting the company’s work, Granholm held more than $1 million in Proterra stock options.
At the time, PPT and at least two members of Congress expressed concerns about the potential of Department of Energy (DOE) programs and initiatives benefitting Proterra, especially with the intense focus on electric vehicles by DOE and the Administration. PPT’s complaint contends recent DOE grants meant to support electrifying commercial vehicles may have done precisely that.
On November 1, Secretary Granholm, with Proterra vehicles serving as the backdrop, participated with Vice President Kamala Harris and other federal officials at a ceremony announcing awards for DOE’s SuperTruck 3 program. This event was merely the latest and most flagrant example of her involvement in the program.
The Energy Secretary promoted the funding opportunity to trucking industry representatives in April, while she still held the Proterra stock options. At least three of the recipients of SuperTruck 3 grants, with awards totaling nearly $80 million, are companies with ties to Proterra. Daimler, for instance, received a $25.7 million SuperTruck 3 grant. In recent years, the company has made multiple large investments in Proterra and created exclusive partnerships between Daimler commercial vehicle divisions and Proterra. While announcing its deal to go public, which involved an investment of more than $400 million from a group led by Daimler Trucks, Proterra described the company as a “strategic partner.” All of these occurred while Ms. Granholm served on Proterra’s Board.
“PPT was one voice among many that raised concerns about Secretary Granholm’s ties to Proterra while DOE was promoting initiatives from which the company could benefit,” Michael Chamberlain, Director of Protect the Public’s Trust, said. “While her previous actions left the public wondering about her involvement in decisions that could benefit the company, last week’s event with the Vice President appeared to cross the line into ethical misconduct. The Biden Administration has promised to be the most ethical in history, but that does not seem to have materialized at DOE. With what appears to be a pattern of possible misconduct by Secretary Granholm and her leadership, it is little wonder why the American public’s trust in its government is at an all-time low.”