Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm faces renewed ethics heat over finances: 'Unacceptable'

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm‘s admission about giving false testimony on stock ownership is sparking heightened concerns among lawmakers and watchdogs, who contend her transparency lapses are highly troubling.

Granholm told the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in a Friday letter she “mistakenly” testified in April that she “did not own any individual stocks,” even though Granholm meant to say she “did not own any conflicting stocks.” The secretary, who has been sharply criticized for her ethical and financial decisions since being tapped by President Joe Biden, also informed the panel that her husband, Daniel Mulhern, owned shares in Ford Motor Company despite a lack of prior disclosure.


“Issuing a statement six weeks later without any explanation is unacceptable,” Rep. Kelly Armstrong (R-ND), a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, told the Washington Examiner. “It’s one of two things at this point. She’s either incompetent or lying.”

Armstrong added that he has outstanding questions in connection to Granholm “failing twice to disclose her husband’s stock in a company that squarely falls under her authority,” referring to the Ford shares. The secretary wrote on Friday in the letter that she did not report the shares because she only became aware of their existence on May 13. The shares, which were valued at $2,457.89, were sold on May 15, according to the letter.

Granholm also vowed in the letter to publicize details about her prior holdings in six companies on her financial disclosure report, which will be available in mid-June. The secretary noted that, while she previously “divested from assets that could be in conflict with my official duties,” Granholm “did, however, retain assets that were determined by Government ethics officials to not conflict with my official duties.”

In a statement to the Washington Examiner, Energy Department spokesman David A. Mayorga said that Granholm “always puts the interests of the American people first.”

“As part of her commitment to the highest ethical conduct and transparency, Secretary Granholm timely divested of all conflicting assets that were known at the time of her confirmation, and subsequently even divested of assets she wasn’t legally required to sell,” Mayorga told the Washington Examiner. “The secretary is focused on delivering an equitable clean energy future that will bring cheaper power, cleaner air, and more good-paying jobs for more Americans.”

The letter from Granholm is the latest window into how the secretary, who was the Democratic governor of Michigan between 2003 and 2011, has faced ethical setbacks since being confirmed by the Senate in February 2021. Granholm notably skirted a federal conflicts-of-interest law by not disclosing up to $240,000 in stock sales, leading to her paying a $400 government late fee in 2022, according to multiple reports.

“It seems that Granholm thinks the rules don’t apply to her,” Pete McGinnis, a spokesman for the Functional Government Initiative, a right-leaning watchdog group, told the Washington Examiner.

Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm, speaks to the Transportation Research Board gathering in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023. The world’s largest aircraft fleet was grounded for hours by a cascading outage in a government system that delayed or canceled thousands of flights across the U.S. on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

The top Biden official also violated the Hatch Act, which bars federal employees from engaging in certain political activity, when she appeared to endorse Democratic candidates in a 2021 interview, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, a federal investigative and prosecutorial agency, said in June 2022. However, the special counsel’s office did not take disciplinary action, since Granholm purportedly had not received “significant” Hatch Act training, according to records.

Granholm has arguably received the most scrutiny from the GOP when it comes to her prior ownership of shares in Proterra, an electric battery and vehicle manufacturer that Biden promoted in 2021 as part of the president’s push for his infrastructure package. Granholm, who was listed by Proterra as a board member days before her February 2021 confirmation, ended up selling her 240,000 shares for $1.6 million in May 2021.

“This pattern of behavior from Secretary Granholm is deeply troubling,” an aide to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which oversees the Department of Energy, told the Washington Examiner. “She needs to be completely forthcoming and transparent with Congress regarding her ethical lapses as secretary, as well as how DOE is working to advance the administration’s rush-to-green agenda and make us more reliant on China.”

A source close to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee noted that the panel is eyeing oversight when it comes to Granholm’s finances. The committee’s ranking member, Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), said on Friday, “Secretary Granholm lied to the committee about her family’s stock holdings. This comes after her failure to follow basic ethics and disclosure rules. This is a troubling pattern. It is unacceptable.”

Meanwhile, the revelation concerning Ford stock and Granholm’s husband may lead to watchdog groups launching investigations to uncover further information, according to sources familiar with the matter. The financial disclosure error, which Granholm dubbed an “accidental omission,” could be akin to an apparent conflict of interest given that Granholm and Biden in the past have promoted Ford’s electric vehicles.

Ford and other electric vehicle manufacturers have also stood to benefit from subsidies in Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, a $740 billion spending bill the president signed into law in August 2022. Granholm appointed Ford lobbyist Christopher Smith in April to serve on her Secretary of Energy Advisory Board, which advises the secretary on the “global clean energy revolution,” records show.


Smith has lobbied the Biden administration on issues related to electric vehicles and greenhouse gas emissions, as well as the Inflation Reduction Act, and supply chains, according to federal disclosures reviewed by the Washington Examiner.

“These latest revelations are unfortunately just par for the course at Secretary Granholm’s Department of Energy,” Michael Chamberlain, director of Protect the Public’s Trust, a right-leaning watchdog, said. “It sure would be hard to convince anyone of the Biden administration’s claims to be the most ethical in history by looking at Jennifer Granholm’s Department.”