Congressional Republicans are demanding investigations into potential conflicts of interest between the Biden administration and the Proterra electric bus company, which could receive billions in taxpayer money through a proposed infrastructure package, The Washington Free Beacon reported Wednesday.
Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, National Economic Council Director Brian Deese and Democractic megadonors have financial ties to Proterra, according to documents reviewed by the Free Beacon.
Republican Rep. Ralph Norman, who serves as ranking member on the environment subcommittee of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, said "the American people deserve to understand the full extent of Secretary Granholm's involvement with Proterra," emphasizing that "her position of roughly $5 million in [the company] is another unfortunate example of politicians using their position for personal gain. Due to the President's recent unveiling of a $2 trillion infrastructure package, this matter should be investigated thoroughly."
The White House has attempted to downplay the conflict of interest, saying that Granholm played no role in the decision to promote Proterra and has 180 days from confirmation to sell the stock, the New York Post reported.
But a Biden executive order in February granted Granholm the task of "identifying risks in the supply chain for high-capacity batteries, including electric-vehicle batteries, and policy recommendations," in addition to the fact that the president's infrastructure plan includes a program that would replace at least 20% of school buses with electric vehicles, or EVs , with Proterra being one of the leading U.S. manufacturers of electric buses.
Free Beacon also pointed out that Nicholas and Joby Pritzker, who are part of Illinois Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker's megadonor family, own some 12 million shares of ArcLight, which in January announced a $1.6 billion merger with Proterra, which will see the electric vehicle manufacturer go public in 2021. Granholm served on Proterra's board for almost four years and continues to hold some $5 million in its stock.
Deese is also tied to Proterra through BlackRock, the major investment company where he worked before joining the Biden administration. BlackRock is one of several firms that invested a combined $415 million into the Proterra merger, with Deese reportedly holding more than $2.4 million in BlackRock vested restricted stock in his February financial disclosure. That amount is posed for steep gains as ArcLight's stock price has shot up 50% since January.
The White House did not return a request for comment regarding Deese's role in planning events with Proterra, since as a top BlackRock executive, he led an investment team tasked with identifying "sustainable" investment opportunities.
In addition, SEC documents filed by ArcLight reveal that the Pritzkers, who are prolific donors to Democratic candidates and causes, will own between 6% and 7% of Proterra once the company goes public.
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