In the News

Watchdog group says Energy Department official may have violated ethics obligations

The official is a former member of an energy trade association

Adam Shaw, Fox News

A top Energy Department official is facing accusations of a potential conflict of interest, after a watchdog group said she had suggested a pattern of advancing the interests of an energy association of which she is a former CEO.

Kelly Speakes-Backman, who serves as acting Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, is a former CEO of the Energy Storage Association. 

Protect the Public’s Trust, a watchdog that identifies potential conflicts of interest, has written to the Energy Department’s general counsel pointing to an April 16  panel on energy storage technology, in which it says Speakes-Backman “unnecessarily made multiple mentions of her former employer and implied her involvement in a major program initiative that would likely financially benefit her former employer and its members.”

Read more

Granholm Deputy Flagged Over Conflict of Interest Concern

Kelly Speakes-Backman promoted former employer as head of DOE’s energy efficiency and renewable energy office

Matthew Foldi, Washington Free Beacon

Jennifer Granholm isn’t the only top Biden official in the Department of Energy under scrutiny for conflict of interest.

Kelly Speakes-Backman, a top Granholm deputy, is under fire for a series of events in which she promoted the Energy Storage Association, an industry trade association she helmed as chief executive officer until she was tapped by the Biden administration in January. In her official capacity as head of the agency’s energy efficiency and renewable energy office, she promoted the policy proposals of her former employer.

Protect the Public’s Trust, a watchdog focused on identifying conflict of interest, says Speakes-Backman improperly promoted the Energy Storage Association in her official capacity. In a letter to the agency’s general counsel, the group points to a series of events where Speakes-Backman drew on several policy recommendations made by the industry lobbying group. 

Read more

Watchdog: Energy Sec. Jennifer Granholm Electric Bus Stock Sale Leaves Many Unanswered Questions

Jacob Bliss, Breitbart News

Watchdog group Protect the Public’s Trust said there are still many unanswered questions for the public to know after Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm’s sale of her massive holdings in Proterra, an electric bus maker.

“Protect the Public’s Trust applauds Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm’s decision to divest from Proterra,” the group said in a statement. The group also said, Proterra, the company in which Granholm had holdings, is like the “Tesla of electric buses.”

Read more

Protect the Public’s Trust, others seek information on officials’ use of encrypted messaging apps

April Bamburg, Washington DC Business Daily

Protect the Public’s Trust is interested in ensuring access to all public records created by government officials at the state and federal levels.

The nonprofit group stated in a May 21 press release that it is demanding records from several federal agencies regarding the use of encrypted message applications by high-level officials.

Read more

Oil patch insider: Haaland makes watchlist; Sullivan slams O&G policy; Yergin lauded

Kay Cashman, Petroleum News

Interior Secretary Debra Haaland has been added to Protect the Public’s Trust watchlist of executive branch leaders with ethical questions to answer, the organization said May 19.

“Despite a dearth of executive experience and a number of issues with previous financial disclosure documents” Haaland was named to lead the 70,000-employee agency with a complex budget that could run to more than $17 billion, the nonprofit organization said in a press release, noting Haaland “has also appointed top lieutenants and advisors whose numerous potential conflicts of interest could seriously hamper their abilities to perform their duties.”

Michael Chamberlain, director of Protect the Public’s Trust, described the way Haaland “appears to have handled her required financial disclosures” as “haphazard.” He also questioned whether she had taken transparency seriously.

Read more

Watchdog presses to ensure federal workers preserve records on encrypted messaging apps

Federal government officials communicating through encrypted messaging apps like Signal can prevent the public from obtaining such records through Freedom of Information Act requests.

Natalia Mittelstadt, Just the News

Protect the Public’s Trust, a non-profit government ethics watchdog, has filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests on to multiple federal agencies for records related to government workers using encrypted messaging apps like Signal.

Read more

New group eyes corruption at DOE, Interior

Timothy Cama, E&E News

A new watchdog group hopes to expose corruption in the Biden administration, with a focus so far on the Energy and Interior departments.

Protect the Public’s Trust started speaking out last month about what it says are real or potential ethical lapses by officials including Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, senior Department of Energy official Kelly Speakes-Backman, and Tommy Beaudreau, President Biden’s nominee to be deputy Interior secretary.

Read more

DOI senior counselor’s previous involvement in climate litigation could be a conflict under ‘Biden ethics pledge’

Juliette Fairley, Legal Newsline

WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) – A group that monitors conflicts of interest among government officials believes that climate activist Elizabeth Klein, now serving as senior counselor to Secretary of Interior Deb Haaland, may have some problems.

Michael Chamberlain, director of Protect the Public’s Trust, said that ethics regulations and the Biden Administration’s “ethics pledge” are crystal clear: “no official is to participate in any decision, deliberation or action on a particular matter where they or their former employer were involved as a party or where they represented a party.”

Read more