Watchdog Hits Granholm’s Energy Department with Lawsuit over Ethics Records

Protect the Public’s Trust sues DOE over refusal to provide records related to misconduct allegations

Today, federal watchdog Protect the Public’s Trust filed a lawsuit in federal court demanding the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) release documents related to evidence of possible misconduct by a senior leader at DOE. Upon discovering information that Acting Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Kelly Speakes-Backman may have violated her ethics obligations in multiple public speaking engagements, PPT sought records from the agency related to the potential misconduct. DOE has since failed to produce a single record, in violation of federal law, despite several attempts by PPT to reach an accommodation.

This stonewalling, resistance to transparency and flippant attitude of leadership toward ethics obligations, such as Granholm’s continuing to hold stock in a company poised to benefit from initiatives she led, is emblematic not only of the current DOE but across federal agencies in the current Administration. PPT has documented possible violations of ethics restrictions and encountered similar unnecessary roadblocks to public disclosure at a number of agencies. The American public deserves to trust that its high-ranking officials are acting in the interests of the public they are appointed to serve, not those of former employers, colleagues and family members.

An investigation by PPT revealed that, on several occasions, Ms. Speakes-Backman appeared to have endorsed or implied participation in matters where her former employer would receive a financial benefit. She also made multiple appearances in segments that were sponsored exclusively by “Leadership Circle” members or donors to her former employer, the Energy Storage Association, while acting in her official DOE capacity. PPT also filed a parallel complaint with DOE ethics officials at the time of the Freedom of Information Act request referenced in the lawsuit. The watchdog later followed with a complaint to the DOE Inspector General after discovering even further apparent violations by Ms. Speakes-Backman.

“DOE’s refusal to turn over documents is, unfortunately, par for the course for federal agencies in this administration,” declared Michael Chamberlain, Director of Protect the Public’s Trust. “If, as they continually boast, the Biden Administration is the most ethical in history, you certainly couldn’t tell by DOE’s actions. Not only has at least one high-ranking leader, who oversees billions in taxpayer funds, repeated behavior that appears to cross ethical lines, but Department officials are unwilling to release information related to those actions that the American public has every right to know.”