Ethics Watchdog Files Complaint on Department of Energy Assistant Secretary

Kelly Speakes-Backman is the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Office of Energy
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Protect the Public Trust, a government ethics watchdog group, filed another complaint Thursday with the Office of the Inspector General at the U.S. Department of Energy regarding Acting Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) Kelly Speakes-Backman possibly having repeated ethics violations.

The watchdog group notes that Speakes-Backman served as Energy Storage Association’s (ESA) CEO before receiving her political appointment in the Biden administration. The group alleges that she “may have violated ethics commitments and the Biden Ethics Pledge.”

The group wrote that on numerous occasions, she “participated in events in which she either endorsed her former employer or was sponsored by a major donor or board member of ESA.”

When the watchdog group previously asked questions regarding the issue, the Energy Department declined to respond and “failed to produce public records regarding the senior political appointee’s conduct, in violation of federal law.” The group added:

Despite notice alerting DOE officials to this potentially improper behavior, Ms. Speakes-Backman appeared to continue the same conduct with another ESA board member-sponsored keynote address delivered to a non-public, paid-admission-only conference of energy storage industry participants seeking taxpayer funds for their various corporate endeavors. Based on the substance and alarming facts discovered in the investigation into Ms. Speakes-Backman’s most recent use of her official position to advance the interests of her former employer and its members, Protect the Public’s Trust has filed an official complaint with agency’s Inspector General.

“At DOE, the head of an office that is poised to oversee more than $4 billion (a 50 percent bump) per the Biden Administration’s budget request seems unable to avoid situations in which she appears to endorse her former employer and its donors,” stated Michael Chamberlain, the director of Protect the Public’s Trust. He continued:

The pattern is so blatant a neutral observer is left wondering whether Ms. Speakes-Backman ever participates in events that DON’T involve her former employer or its board members. Given the ethics concerns around Secretary Granholm’s continuing to hold Proterra stock options while the administration promoted the company, and the Biden Administration’s claim of being the most ethical in history, the American public can rightfully ask why DOE is not taking these repeated apparent ethics violations more seriously.

The group wrote in the complaint that listed numerous questions they would like answered, such as knowing if Speakes-Backman replayed any “information to ethics officials prior to accepting the invitations to speak.” The group would also like to know who Speakes-Backman spoke to if she did seek ethical guidance on any of the matters they listed in the complaint.


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