The potential profitability of political connections is something of which countless individuals from both sides of the aisle have long taken advantage, but when such a scenario openly implicates a sitting Cabinet-level administration official, the fallout can – or at least should – be particularly problematic.
According to Breitbart, as part of the current administration’s green energy initiatives, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris recently paid visits to an electric battery enterprise in which current Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm has been revealed to have a sizable financial interest, causing many to question the propriety of her continued stake in the firm.
As part of his effort to secure passage of a massive infrastructure bill, Biden has publicly promoted Proterra, an electric battery producer in which Granholm owns upwards of $5 million in securities, as the Washington Free Beacon reported. The president participated in a virtual tour of company facilities on Tuesday, and on Monday, Vice President Harris visited a firm called Thomas Built Buses, a North Carolina company that builds school buses using Proterra battery and drivertrain components.
The apparent conflict of interest emerged when it became known that not only did Granholm join Proterra’s board of directors back in March of 2017, she also retained up to $5 million in company stock options, according to mandatory financial disclosures, as the Free Beacon noted. While she promised back in January that she would resign her board position and sell her company stock, she still has control of the securities, a White House official admitted.
Granholm’s interest in Proterra is concerning given that pursuant to an executive order issued on February 24, the president tasked her with “identifying risks in the supply chain for high-capacity batteries, including electric-vehicle batteries.”
Furthermore, the Biden administration’s infrastructure proposal, if approved, would devote investments of $174 billion to the electric vehicle market and would include a push to convert no less than 20% of the existing school bus fleet to electric.
Not surprisingly, after President Biden took part in a virtual tour of Proterra and touted his administration’s desire to increase federal expenditures on electric battery technologies, company shares experienced an notable increase in value. Given that Granholm is still in a position to benefit from such a price jump, the conflict of interest is plain to see.
The link between Granholm and Proterra brings to mind another standout example from the annals of crony green capitalism, that of defunct solar panel company Solyndra. Beneficiaries of a half-billion dollar loan from the Obama administration, the firm – which also had substantial ties to government officials – was, as Mitt Romney put it at the time, “a symbol of a serious conflict of interest” that involved “taking money from the taxpayers and giving it freely to [the president’s] friends.”
Whether Granholm will indeed divest herself of Proterra stock within the time period mandated by federal ethics rules remains to be seen, but the entire episode is a stark reminder of the real risk of corruption that continues to permeate the political landscape.