A congressional panel has found that it takes a lot of political clout to obtain subsidies for electric vehicles under the Obama administration.
The panel studied the $125 million sent to Ecotality, an electric car charger company run by CEO and self-proclaimed "political beast" Jonathan Read.
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Read build his company off of political gamesmanship and was not shy about sharing that fact, according to the Foundry:
Read put it bluntly: "I’m a political beast," he told a shareholder, "and playing the political card is something that when the time is right we’re going to play very hard." Asked when that time might be, Read answered, "you call in your chips when you have a specific project you want to go after."
It wasn’t long before such a project emerged. In the fourth quarter of 2008, Ecotality shifted its lobbying strategy. Until then, it had devoted most of its lobbying muscle to "continu[ing the] competitive bid process for DOE testing," in the words of its disclosure forms. During the Bush administration, Ecotality received contracts to test electric vehicle technology, and lobbying efforts were geared toward continuing that relationship.
In August of 2008, then-Sen. Barack Obama announced his goal to get 1 million electric vehicles on the road by 2015. Around that time, Ecotality’s lobbying efforts, previously confined to Congress and DOE, were expanded to the White House.
The company hired Ziemba-Waid Public Affairs, a politically connected group that has pushed thousands of dollars into Democratic campaign treasuries over the year, to lobby on Capitol Hill and the White House.
Those lobbying efforts paid off, as the company pulled in $125 million from the Department of Energy. The company predicted good things to come when it laid out its business model to financial regulators and investors after the 2008 election.
As Ecotality put it in a December 2008 SEC filing, "we believe the focus by the Obama Administration [on electric vehicles] will provide strong funding opportunities for us and our core technologies."