Critics slammed President Joe Biden on Monday for giving "free publicity" to General Motors with a tweet featuring the company’s electric Hummer. But the president’s promotion actually cost the company a pretty penny.
General Motors has paid Jeff Ricchetti, the brother of longtime Biden confidant and White House counselor Steve Ricchetti, $460,000 to lobby Congress and the White House on electric vehicle tax incentives since the president took office. Biden was promoting his administration’s electric vehicle tax credit with Monday’s tweet, which featured a photo of the president behind the wheel of a GMC Hummer EV Pickup Edition 1.
On my watch, the great American road trip is going to be fully electrified.
And now, through a tax credit, you can get up to $7,500 on a new electric vehicle. pic.twitter.com/n3iZ9etL4A
— President Biden (@POTUS) January 30, 2023
Biden’s tweet is the latest return on General Motors' investment in Jeff Ricchetti. In April 2021, Biden hosted a summit with General Motors CEO Mary Barra. He followed that up with a November 2021 visit to the company’s electric vehicle plant, where he first promoted the fully electric Hummer, which boosted reservations for the vehicle by sevenfold.
Some critics questioned why Biden keeps giving "free publicity" to the electric Hummer, noting that it is not even eligible for the $7,500 tax credit he cited in his tweet. Research also shows that the $108,700 truck produces more carbon dioxide than a typical gas-powered sedan.
Biden’s repeat promotion of the electric Hummer renewed concerns from ethics experts over General Motors’s cozy relationship with the White House.
"Business just keeps getting better for the brother of Biden’s top aide," Caitlin Sutherland, the executive director of Americans for Public Trust, told the Washington Free Beacon. "This pattern of unfettered access is the exact opposite of Biden’s pledge to 'restore ethics in government.’"
It’s not clear how many Hummers General Motors sold as a result of the president’s tweet on Monday. General Motors spokeswoman Jeannine Ginivan declined to share recent reservation information for the electric vehicle.
Through his firm, Ricchetti Incorporated, Jeff Ricchetti has lobbied Congress on behalf of General Motors for electric vehicle and charging station tax incentives and other climate policies that impact automobile manufacturers. In the first quarter of 2021, Ricchetti disclosed that he lobbied the Commerce Department on issues related to semiconductor supply. Weeks later, General Motors met with Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo to discuss semiconductors.
Ricchetti’s other lobbying clients include Amazon, the semiconductor manufacturer Applied Materials, and a number of technology and pharmaceutical companies. His firm has raked in nearly $6.5 million in lobbying fees since Biden took office, disclosures show.
"I’m not sure you could find a situation more emblematic of how the Swamp in D.C. works," Protect the Public’s Trust director Michael Chamberlain told the Free Beacon.
Ricchetti denies that he has benefited from his brother’s position in the White House.
"I do not lobby my brother and I have not even mentioned to him the names of clients that I currently represent," he said in an April 2021 statement to CNBC. "For the better part of the last thirty years I have lobbied Members of Congress and their staff, and various individuals who have served in the successive Administrations. It is what I do for a living."
Still, ethics experts have criticized Biden for allowing his top aide to work on the same issues as his lobbyist brother.
"Steve Ricchetti ought to completely recuse himself from any part of the legislation that his brother’s firm is lobbying on, and then have the White House not take calls from his brother," said former White House ethics chief Richard Painter.
Jeff Ricchetti and the White House did not return requests for comment.