The Biden administration’s energy loan czar has close ties to lobbyists whose clients have raked in hundreds of millions of dollars from his office, according to lobbying records reviewed by the Washington Free Beacon.
Holland & Knight lobbyist Taite McDonald, who describes Department of Energy Loan Programs Office director Jigar Shah as a "longtime friend," serves as an adviser to Cleantech Leaders, a trade group that Shah founded before joining the government. Since Shah took the helm at the LPO, McDonald has led "more than two dozen projects through the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Loan Programs Office," according to her corporate biography, with one client, Kore Power, securing an $850 million loan in June.
McDonald’s partner at the firm, Justin Boose, is the long-time counsel for Generate Capital, the company that Shah founded before he joined the government.
The news comes as the DOE inspector general has been investigating allegations of conflicts of interest at the Loan Programs Office. Lawmakers have also been probing potential ethics issues after the Free Beacon reported that a trade group founded by Shah has been acting as a gatekeeper for companies seeking loans from his office.
One of McDonald’s clients, Kore Power, secured an $850 million loan from the LPO in June. Another, Volta Industries, entered a loan negotiation process with the LPO in March, indicating advanced talks between the company and the office. The LPO recently invited another McDonald client, NET Power, into the second phase of the loan application process, according to Securities and Exchange Commission filings.
McDonald’s roster of lobbying clients tripled in 2020 in the months leading up to President Joe Biden’s election, according to disclosure records. While her previous clients were in industries such as cybersecurity and cannabis, most of her newer clients are in the energy sector.
Americans for Public Trust, a government watchdog group, said Shah's connections with industry lobbyists should prompt more scrutiny.
"The Biden administration has failed to show what guardrails, if any, have been put in place to safeguard billions in taxpayer money from apparent revolving door relationships," said APT's executive director Caitlin Sutherland. "Americans deserve accountability and assurances that green energy lobbyists are not being given preferential treatment by Shah or anyone else at the Department of Energy."
McDonald is listed as an adviser to Cleantech Leaders Climate Forum, an organization founded by Shah before he joined the government. Shah’s continued relationship with the group—he has been a featured speaker at nearly a dozen ticketed Cleantech Leaders events since taking office—has raised concerns from lawmakers that the organization is selling companies access to its former leader.
Boose, McDonald’s partner at Holland & Knight, has served as an attorney for Generate, a company founded by Shah, since at least 2018, according to Securities and Exchange Commission records.
McDonald and Boose did not respond to a request for comment. The Department of Energy did not respond to a request for comment.
Sen. John Barrasso (R., Wyo.), the chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers (R., Wash.), chairwoman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, have launched inquiries into potential conflicts of interest at the LPO under Shah.
DOE inspector general Teri Donaldson, the department’s chief watchdog, has also launched a new project "looking at conflicts of interest particularly in the Loan Programs Office," she told lawmakers in October.