Joe Biden’s Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm used her official government position to promote the business of Proterra, her former employer. Granholm’s actions were called “flagrant violations” of ethics rules in a reported watchdog complaint. Proterra is a major electric bus manufacturer.
The complaint was filed with the Inspector General of the Energy Department by the watchdog group Protect the Public’s Trust on Friday. The allegations center on an event on November 1 that Granholm attended in an official capacity representing the federal government. She spoke with a group of Proterra buses displayed behind her. The event announced more than $100 million in federal government grants to support producers of electric vehicles.
The complaint, signed by Protect the Public’s Trust Director Michael Chamberlain, alleges that a full investigation is needed to determine the extent to which Granholm violated legal and ethical rules.
Chamberlain argues that Granholm’s participation “directly and predictably benefits Proterra” violates ethical rules.
Surrounded by Vice President Kamala Harris and Proterra buses, Granholm spoke glowingly of the company’s battery technology. Granholm said “we” are going “400, 500, 600 miles on a charge.” She announced $127 million of federal grants for electric vehicle production while gesturing toward Proterra’s vehicles.
Granholm is covered by the ethics pledge made by the Biden administration. That pledge prevents administration officials from participating in events that are related to a former employer or client, “including regulations and contracts.”
Until the November 1 event, Granholm had appeared to distance herself in public from Proterra due to her sizable financial stake in the company that resulted from her employment. She sold her interest in the company in May, making a declared $1.6 million profit.
Proterra’s proposals to investors have made it clear that the company relies on substantial amounts of taxpayer funding as part of its business plan. The company said it intended to rely on the Biden infrastructure bill proposal and “ride the wave” of government funding. That bill was finally approved by the House last week after months of delay. The bill includes billions of dollars for electric battery development and production.
Protect the Public’s Trust says that Granholm should recuse herself from any government business that involves funding or regulation of Proterra. The watchdog group says that any reasonable person would question whether Granholm would provide Proterra with “preferential treatment.”