Granholm's Green Energy Millions

Biden energy secretary nets $1.6 million after offloading admin-backed electric bus company

Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm / Getty Images
May 27, 2021

Energy secretary Jennifer Granholm has finally sold hundreds of thousands of shares in a green energy company that has received the backing of the Biden administration.

On Wednesday, Granholm confirmed she earned a $1.6 million profit on her shares of Proterra amid a firestorm over her financial ties to an electric vehicle company repeatedly promoted by the Biden administration. In selling off her shares, Granholm was able to defer paying capital gains taxes on the $1.6 million sale because cabinet officials are not penalized with the tax on assets they are required to sell as a condition of joining the administration. The Biden administration is seeking to raise the capital gains tax on America's wealthiest families.

On May 11, Granholm filed an Office of Government Ethics divestiture certificate. She confirmed the sale Wednesday. The former Michigan governor reported selling more than 240,000 shares in the electric bus manufacturer to an unnamed buyer. She valued the stake at up to $5 million in a January financial disclosure.

The Department of Energy did not return to requests for comment.

While Proterra is slated to go public within the next few weeks, Granholm's sale of the shares of the yet-to-be publicly traded company likely occurred in an off-market private sale. The Washington Free Beacon reported that major Democratic donors are invested in the company taking Proterra public, including at least one member of the megadonor Pritzker family who stands to own up to 7 percent of the company when it finally becomes public.

The White House did not respond to requests for comment.

Granholm's divestment comes weeks after President Joe Biden toured Proterra, prompting ethics concerns from federal lawmakers. Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) compared the Biden administration's ongoing promotion of the company to the Obama administration's pouring millions of taxpayer dollars into Solyndra, a failed solar panel company. Sen. John Barrasso (R., Wyo.) wrote to the Department of Energy's inspector general demanding a review of Granholm's stake in the company.

"Energy Secretary Granholm held millions of dollars of investments in an electric bus company. During her nomination hearing, she committed to the Senate that she would avoid the appearance of any conflicts of interest," Barrasso told the Free Beacon. "Even though Secretary Granholm has now sold these stocks, her actions appear to be a significant conflict of interest."

Rep. Ralph Norman (R., S.C.) wrote directly to Granholm requesting key documents about any Department of Energy promotion of Proterra. Rep. Jim Banks (R., Ind.) called for Granholm to offload her Proterra shares on May 5.

Granholm played a leading role in shaping the administration's infrastructure package. Biden tasked her specifically with "identifying risks in the supply chain for high-capacity batteries, including electric-vehicle batteries, and policy recommendations to address these risks." The legislation includes a $174 billion investment in the electric vehicle market and creates a Clean Buses for Kids program in order to "electrify" at least 20 percent of the nation's school buses. Proterra opened a battery manufacturing plant in California just weeks after Biden's election.

In addition to Biden's virtual tour of Proterra's South Carolina factory, the president in May hosted company CEO Jack Allen at the White House's Leaders Summit on Climate. National climate adviser Gina McCarthy praised Proterra for its "amazing" work at the summit and asked Allen "what role" the federal government can play in "spurring the demand for zero emission electric vehicles, including school buses."

Granholm and Allen spoke at the conference, with Allen thanking Biden for his "longstanding support of electric transit buses and zero emission transportation." While Granholm has denied any involvement of planning Proterra-related events, the White House has yet to say who was involved in planning them.

Editor's note: This piece has been updated with comment from Barrasso.