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Biden Admin Power Players Directing Billions In Subsidies Raises Cronyism Risk, Watchdogs Say

  • Democratic insiders within the Biden administration have been tasked with guiding the distribution of billions in infrastructure and green energy subsidies from the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and the bipartisan infrastructure law.  
  • Including their roles in the Biden administration, Tom Perez, John Podesta and Jennifer Granholm have served approximately 23 years combined in Democratic presidential administrations and at the Democratic National Committee going back to Bill Clinton’s presidency.
  • “Placing billions of taxpayer dollars in the hands of a few highly partisan, powerful special interest operators such as Perez, Podesta and Granholm is a dangerous proposition,” Pete McGinnis of the Functional Government Initiative told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

President Joe Biden has tasked several Democratic political insiders with overseeing the distribution of hundreds of billions of dollars in subsidies and loans, an arrangement which three government watchdog groups told the Daily Caller News Foundation could heighten the risk of cronyism and unethical governance.

Biden has tasked former Chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) Tom Perez, veteran D.C. insider John Podesta and Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm with overseeing the distribution of hundreds of billions of dollars in green energy subsidies and loans. All three are deeply connected Democratic Party insiders, and several government watchdog groups told the DCNF that their insider status combined with the amount of taxpayer funds at their disposal heightens the risk for special interest accommodation.

“The Biden administration’s massive push for renewable energy incentives has heightened the threat” of governmental dysfunction, Pete McGinnis of the Functional Government Initiative told the DCNF. There are “nearly limitless supplies of taxpayer dollars directed to organizations and interests viewed as ‘favorable’ to their energy agenda,” he continued. “Placing billions of taxpayer dollars in the hands of a few highly partisan, powerful special interest operators such as Perez, Podesta and Granholm is a dangerous proposition. It’s unlikely to result in a net benefit to the American people.”

The Biden administration’s sweeping climate and infrastructure spending represent a key pillar of Biden’s political platform, and he is counting on the spending commitments as a selling point for a prospective second term in office. Together, the three officials have spent about 23 years within the DNC and Democratic presidential administrations going back to Bill Clinton’s presidency.

Podesta is responsible for overseeing the distribution of nearly $370 billion in subsidies allotted in the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and the bipartisan infrastructure law. The two pieces of legislation have given Granholm’s Department of Energy (DOE) discretion over at least $97 billion in taxpayer dollars to pursue their green energy agenda, according to a DOE press release.

Perez’s position as a liaison between the federal government, state governments, local governments, business leaders and nonprofit leaders will grant him a key role in guiding implementation of significant amounts of funds, according to The Associated Press. “This is all about implementation and making sure people know about these opportunities” in the legislation to “maximize the moment,” Perez said of his new role, according to The Associated Press.

“Tom Perez and John Podesta are both perennial political power brokers within the Democratic party apparatus… placing these men at the helm of billions in spending initiatives would appear to open the door to enormous favor-trading between business leaders and political actors,” Open The Books founder and CEO Adam Andrzejewski told the DCNF. “What expertise do they bring to the table when tackling climate change or critical infrastructure projects? Both are career partisans rather than subject-matter or industry experts.”

Perez formerly served as secretary of labor for former President Barack Obama, and chaired the DNC. Podesta served as Bill Clinton’s White House chief of staff, established the liberal Center for American Progress think tank and chaired Hillary Clinton’s failed 2016 presidential campaign.

The Washington Post described Podesta as “the man behind President Obama’s new environmental push” in a 2014 article describing Podesta’s efforts to guide the Obama administration’s climate agenda, while serving as counselor in the Obama White House.

“John Podesta’s influence on Biden Administration policy predates his tenure at the White House,” Michael Chamberlain, director of Protect the Public’s Trust, told the DCNF. “Documents we received from a FOIA lawsuit against the State Department indicate he and his organization were among the outside actors actively involved in the development of policy and international relations at the State Department’s Office of the Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, the office headed by John Kerry.”

Granholm served two terms as Democratic governor of Michigan, briefly worked on Obama’s transition team as an economic advisor and worked as a “surrogate” for the 2016 Clinton campaign, according to Politico.

Granholm is the only one of the three whose appointment to the administration faced congressional scrutiny. She recently admitted to providing false testimony about her stock holdings during her confirmation hearing, according to Fox News.

“Secretary Granholm has already faced questions about her family investments and their overlap with administration priorities,” Andrzejewski added. Though she is a duly appointed and confirmed cabinet official, “she needs to be fully transparent about her holdings and avoid conflicts of interest like her Proterra investment,” he continued.

Granholm sat on Proterra’s board of directors before joining Biden’s cabinet as energy secretary, where she pushes policies that could benefit Proterra’s bottom line since the company manufactures electric vehicles and batteries. She did not sell her stake in the company for more than two months after her confirmation to Biden’s cabinet, and she netted approximately $1.6 million in capital gains when she cleared her position in May 2021.

“Secretary Granholm has already shown an apparent willingness to push the ethics envelope,” Chamberlain told the DCNF, adding that concerns regarding unethical spending “may be more than merely speculative” in the cases of the three Democratic insiders. “As it turns out, the potential conflicts look to have been even worse than we thought,” Chamberlain said, referring to Granholm’s failure to divest from Proterra until after she took office.

Neither the White House nor the DOE responded to the DCNF’s requests for comment.

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