In Final Months in Government, McGinty Met With Companies That Later Hired Her

Internal docs show McGinty spent final months building relationship with NRG, Iberdrola

Katie McGinty
Katie McGinty / AP
April 20, 2016

On a single day near the end of Katie McGinty's tenure as secretary of Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection, McGinty held meetings with two companies that put her on their boards of directors within a year, according to internal department scheduling emails obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

McGinty has been criticized for the swiftness of her transition to the private sector after she left the top environmental post in Gov. Ed Rendell's administration. McGinty took lucrative positions with NRG Energy and Iberdrola, a Spanish-owned energy utility.

Internal records made available at Pennsylvania's state archives show that McGinty was cultivating relationships with both companies during her final months at the state agency.

McGinty was scheduled to meet with an executive at Iberdrola at 9:00 a.m. on the morning of April 10, 2008, to discuss the renewable energy company's issues obtaining approval from a local zoning board for one of its wind projects.

The meeting was with Eric Thumma, who worked under McGinty as the director of the state agency's bureau of energy, innovations, and technology deployment before he joined Iberdrola in 2007. Thumma planned to ask McGinty if she could get Rendell to call the Democratic commissioners on the zoning board to assist with Iberdrola's appeal of the ruling.

Thumma initially requested that the meeting be done in person, but ultimately talked to McGinty on the phone as she was being driven to a 10:00 a.m. meeting at NRG Energy headquarters in Princeton, New Jersey.

It is not clear based on the emails who McGinty met with at NRG Energy or what was discussed, but briefing documents attached to the email included biographies for NRG CEO and President David Crane as well as the company's complete board of directors.

McGinty resigned from the state agency three months later, on July 11.

Three months later, in October, McGinty was named to NRG Energy's board of directors, a position that paid her $1.1 million over the next five years.

The next year, McGinty joined the board of directors at Iberdrola, where she said that she earned "the same as all the board members made." Her financial disclosure indicates she made $125,000 in her final year with Iberdrola.

The McGinty campaign chose not to comment on this story.

The April meetings were not McGinty's only involvement with the companies.

The previous summer McGinty took a tour of NRG's Pennsylvania facilities and was briefed by executives on the company's work. The company had told the state agency prior to the tour that it hoped to convince McGinty to amend the state's Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard to include the company's biodiesel as an eligible alternative fuel.

McGinty's involvement with Iberdrola was more extensive. She was first introduced to the company in December 2005 by the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, which noted in a memo that McGinty should be notified of the Spanish company's interest in entering the U.S. market.

The memo was written by the department's Wilfred Muskens, who set up a meeting between Iberdrola and McGinty two months later in February 2006. McGinty had been briefed on the company in person and had told Muskens that "she would like to meet with them," according to email records.

"I wld definitely like to meet w them," McGinty responded when told that Iberdrola would be in Pennsylvania.

McGinty received "very confidential" information that Iberdrola was planning to acquire Pennsyvania-based PPL Energy Corporation and that it planned to put its headquarters in Pennsylvania once it established itself in the United States. Muskens recommended in his memo after meeting with Iberdrola in Spain that McGinty contact the chairman of PPL to help move the deal along.

Once plans to enter business in Pennsylvania became public later that year, McGinty wrote an official letter to Iberdrola’s Ignacio Sanchez Galan promising "full support in the development of a thriving profitable business in Pennsylvania."

"It is with great pleasure that I hear of your plans to make Pennsylvania Iberdrola's U.S. home," McGinty wrote. "I can assure you having made clean energy deployment a signature piece of my administration, you will have our full support in the development of a thriving profitable business in Pennsylvania."

McGinty met with Iberdrola executives again in February 2008 to discuss carbon offsets. The meeting was set up with McGinty through Thumma, the Iberdrola employee.

Following McGinty's April 2008 meeting with Iberdrola she took immediate action to help the company expand its business in New York. She wrote a letter to Gov. Rendell asking him to recommend to then-New York Gov. David Patterson that his state do business with Iberdrola as well.

"Pedro Azagra, on behalf of Iberdrola S.A., has requested your assistance in reaching out to Governor Patterson regarding the proposed merger of Iberdrola S.A. and Energy East," McGinty told Rendell in a letter first reported by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "Iberdrola S.A. requests that you contact Governor Patterson to provide him with information on Iberdrola’s operations in Pennsylvania and Iberdrola’s commitment to good corporate citizenship in Pennsylvania."

The Washington Examiner further reported that "McGinty spent years handing tens of millions of dollars in subsidies to Spanish wind company Iberdrola and its subsidiaries."

Neither NRG nor Iberdrola responded to requests for comment.

McGinty is not the only Pennsylvania energy executive who has hopped between the public and private sectors. A local NPR affiliate created a website tracking the movement of people between the two sides since 2007. McGinty crossed the public-private divide three times during that period.

This is not a new problem for McGinty. When she ran for governor in 2014, she was called out for accepting $120,000 in campaign contributions from a coal executive that received her help with a permit while she was working at the state agency.

McGinty's tenure at the state agency was marked by an effort to make the state more attractive for green businesses, which she later joined as an employee. On McGinty's final day at the state agency, she stood by Rendell as he signed a bill that created a $650 million fund to encourage investment in renewable energy.

The reelection campaign of Republican Sen. Pat Toomey has noted McGinty's history of moving between the public and private sectors. Toomey's campaign plans to make the issue a focal point of its effort against her if she wins next week's primary.

"The extent of Katie McGinty's insider revolving door deals is staggering, and it explains why she was ranked as Pennsylvania's worst abuser of this corrupt system," said Ted Kwong, a Toomey spokesman.

The most recent primary poll shows McGinty in a tight race with former Congressman Joe Sestak, who was the Democratic nominee in 2010.