Illinois Dem Touts 'Historic' Green Energy Spending That Will Likely Pad His Pocket

Sean Casten holds up to $500,000 in company that is expected to benefit from Democrats' so-called Inflation Reduction Act

Rep. Sean Casten (D., Ill.) / Getty Images
August 20, 2022

Illinois Democrat Sean Casten is very happy with his party's "historic" green energy spending. His latest financial disclosure may show why: The congressman holds up to $500,000 in a green energy company that will likely benefit from the spending.

Casten has spent much of the last week touting Democrats' so-called Inflation Reduction Act, which is not expected to have "any measurable impact on inflation" but does funnel nearly $400 billion toward green energy initiatives. Casten in a statement last week called that spending "a historic win for American families and for the future of our planet." It could also be a historic win for Casten's investment portfolio.

That's because Casten, according to a financial disclosure he filed last week, holds between $250,000 and $500,000 in Greenleaf Power, a Sacramento-based green energy company that sells "carbon-neutral electricity" to utility companies. The Casten-backed green energy bill contains specific provisions that are likely to benefit Greenleaf. The legislation, for example, allocates roughly $30 billion toward "grant and loan programs for states and electric utilities" that obtain "clean electricity" like that offered by Greenleaf. The bill also provides generous tax credits to property owners who install equipment to harness alternative energy sources such as biomass, in which Greenleaf specializes.

Still, none of Casten's many statements touting the Inflation Reduction Act's green energy spending disclose the Democrat's six-figure stake in Greenleaf, which brought Casten up to $50,000 in "partnership income" in 2021 alone. Casten's decision to fixate on Democrats' work to "fight climate change," meanwhile, may prove to be shortsighted as the congressman faces a competitive reelection campaign against Republican Keith Pekau. Only 35 percent of U.S. adults are "extremely or very concerned" about the effects of climate change, down from 44 percent just three years ago, according to an Associated Press poll.

Power the Future founder and executive director Daniel Turner called it a "shame that the American people are going to be on the hook" for "provisions that enrich this member of Congress." He also argued that the "green energy" Greenleaf produces from biomass is not truly "green"—the company generates electricity by burning wood, a far cry from the wind and solar energy Casten has touted in the past.

"It just shows you the political motives behind this piece of legislation," Turner told the Washington Free Beacon. "The fact that we consider biomass clean is really laughable, because biomass is really just burning trees. So why are we proud of that?"

Casten did not return a request for comment. The Democrat's latest financial disclosure provides some clarity on his Greenleaf holding, as the congressman's prior disclosure listed Greenleaf but claimed the asset had no value. Casten filed that 2020 disclosure as he urged Congress to spend hundreds of billions of dollars on "tax credits for clean energy." In one case, Casten went as far as to attack fellow congressional Democrat Joe Manchin after the West Virginia senator expressed opposition toward the spending.

"We're trying to drive a car into the future," Casten said during an September 2021 MSNBC interview. "With all due respect to Mr. Manchin, until we're lining up to take off the emergency brake this car ain't driving very fast. It's certainly not driving as fast as it needs to, and that's the pressure we as Democrats have to keep focused on." Casten's past clean energy spending advocacy also excluded any mention of his Greenleaf investment.

Beyond the American public's waning concern about climate change, it's unclear if the Inflation Reduction Act, which President Joe Biden signed into law on Tuesday, will have a sizable impact on climate change. A climate scientist who led an independent analysis of the package told the Associated Press the legislation will reduce global warming "not a lot."