In Pennsylvania, Katie McGinty shows money and power are fungible
Hillary, Bill and Chelsea Clinton have made a bundle trading on the exchange rate between dollars and political power, and others seem to be learning that they too can cash in on the same business model. Take Katie McGinty, the Pennsylvania Democrat attempting to unseat Senator Pat Toomey.
Ms. McGinty is an old Clinton hand, starting as an aide to Al Gore and rising in the 1990s to chair the White House Council on Environmental Quality for nearly six years. From 2003 to 2008 she was the secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) under Governor Ed Rendell.
At DEP Ms. McGinty led the successful push for the 2008 Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard Act, which requires utilities to generate 18% of Pennsylvania’s electricity from wind, solar and other renewables by 2020. She also steered $2.7 million in grants from the Growing Greener Watershed Protection Program to an environmental nonprofit that employed her husband as a consultant. The state ethics board ruled that the arrangement violated financial conflict-of-interest laws.
For Ms. McGinty, this was merely a down payment. After she left the Rendell administration, she moved seamlessly into lucrative positions at companies she used to regulate or had subsidized, or both, all of which operated under her green-energy mandate and most of which received more DEP subsidies.
In 2009 she took a seat on the board of Iberdrola USA, the U.S. subsidiary of a Spanish utility. At DEP Ms. McGinty had made nearly $20 million in grants and loan guarantees to Gamesa, in which Iberdrola owned a controlling investment stake, to locate two windmill-making factories in Cambria and Bucks counties. The plants were built but have since shut down. In 2005 Ms. McGinty gave Community Energy, another Iberdrola subsidiary, $1 million to build a wind farm using Gamesa turbines.
Also at DEP, Ms. McGinty lobbied Mr. Rendell to serve as a character witness for Iberdrola’s “good corporate citizenship,” according to a 2008 letter she wrote. He followed through and urged then-New York Governor David Paterson to approve a merger of Iberdrola and Energy East, a utility in New York and New England that had nothing to do with Pennsylvania.
After hiring Ms. McGinty, Iberdrola received a $10 million stimulus grant, as selected by her DEP successor, to build a wind farm in Fayette County. Her campaign-finance disclosures show she earned $100,000 a year as a director.
From 2008 to 2013, Ms. McGinty made $1.1 million on the board of NRG Energy, a Pennsylvania utility. She resigned to become chief of staff to Democratic Governor Tom Wolf and emailed her old pals at NRG in 2015: “Miss all you guys and look forward to a big NRG solar push in PA. Please let me know if I can help in any way.”
The feeling is mutual. Finance disclosures show that the political-action committees of both Iberdrola USA and NRG Energy are donors to Ms. McGinty’s Senate campaign.
There’s so much more similar material—her pre- and post-DEP involvement with Plextronics, a Pittsburgh solar company; Weston Solutions, a green consulting firm; Thar Energy, a corn ethanol maker—but we’ll leave it there for now. We’ve argued that the euphemism “public service” has become a form of deferred compensation, and the Clintons aren’t the only well-connected political operators profiting where big government and big business meet.
Pennsylvania voters should wonder whether Ms. McGinty wants to be a Senator to defend their interests and the public trust or merely enhance her influence-trading resume.
To read the entire piece by The Wall Street Journal, please click here.