FIRST ON FOX: A top Biden administration official briefed a “funders only” event hosted earlier this year by the Energy Foundation, her former employer, according to records obtained by an energy policy group.
Allison Clements, a Democratic commissioner on the five-member Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), ultimately agreed to attend the Jan. 10 funder event despite an Energy Foundation official suggesting her presence might be “inappropriate,” according to text messages and emails obtained by the Institute for Energy Research (IER) and shared with Fox News Digital.
“Not sure if this is inappropriate to ask or not-would you be interested/willing/available to talk with funder group about Ferc 2022 priorities,” Energy Foundation fossil fuels program director Meredith Wingate wrote in a text message to Clements in December.
Wingate then said the group would consider rescheduling the event if Clements wasn’t able to attend on Jan. 10.
One week prior to the event on Jan. 3, Energy Foundation senior program associate Sandy Carter emailed FERC staff a schedule of the event which included a “funders only” portion and a briefing led by Clements and a question and answer session afterwards.
“I thought your comments were very interesting, and helpful in focusing our group on ways that we can support successful advocacy at FERC,” Wingate emailed Clements two days after the event, thanking her for her attendance.
While the content of Clements’ briefing remains unclear, IER and ethics experts said her presence at a meeting of apparent Energy Foundation donors raised ethics questions.
“Meeting regularly with far left organizations she used to work for creates a troubling impression,” IER President Tom Pyle told Fox News Digital. “Briefing the funders of these groups on the ‘FERC opportunity’ is inescapably improper.”
“At the very least, Commissioner Clements should recuse herself from voting on matters of interest to the Energy Foundation,” he continued. “If she was a Republican commissioner who was this cozy with industry representatives, the left would be calling for her resignation.”
Clements served as the director of the Energy Foundation’s energy markets program for two years prior to her FERC appointment in 2020. The group’s mission is to ensure an “equitable economy powered by clean energy,” according to its website.
Kendra Arnold, the executive director of government ethics watchdog group the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust, noted federal rules prohibiting government officials from doing business with any party that is regulated by their agency. One or multiple individuals at the Energy Foundation event may have interests affected by FERC’s policymaking.
“General ethics rules dictate a government employee should not ask for contributions from someone who is regulated by, does business with, seeks official action by or has interests that may be affected by the government agency or department the employee works for,” Arnold told Fox News Digital.
“Additionally, a government employee should not use the authority or resources of the government to fundraisers, i.e. title, position, equipment,” she said.
Arnold added that additional information would be needed to determine if an ethics violation occurred. For example, if the Energy Foundation fundraise off Clements’ appearance or her briefing was benefit given to donors, there may have been a violation.
“It would be important to know what type of event this was and what capacity and role she appeared in—including whether it was a fundraising event, a closed event or open to the public, and whether her appearance was to fundraise for her former employer,” she continued.
“Not only can ethics issues arise from her interactions with a former employer, but also from the attendees at the event if they have business before her federal agency.”
However, a spokesperson for Clements dismissed concerns that the commissioner had engaged in any unethical behavior, saying she regularly brief stakeholders on FERC activities as part of her “open door policy.”
“The Commissioner has an open door policy, and subject to ex parte restrictions, has held hundreds of stakeholder meetings during her time on the Commission, including with representatives of utilities, regional grid operators, gas pipeline companies, consumer advocates, NGOs, and trade associations,” a spokesperson for Clements told Fox News Digital.
And the Energy Foundation similarly said the event was part of its regular slate of industry briefings.
“Energy Foundation supports education and analysis to promote non-partisan, equitable policy solutions that advance renewable energy and energy efficiency while opening doors to greater innovation and productivity — growing the economy with dramatically less pollution,” Energy Foundation spokesperson Omer Farooque told Fox News Digital in an email.
“To serve our mission, we routinely host briefings for the climate and clean energy philanthropy community to hear from experts in the field.”
Farooque didn’t address a question about the briefing being a “funders only” event.
In addition to the Energy Foundation briefing, though, other emails obtained by IER showed Clements consulted with leaders at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), another climate group she previously worked for.
In April, Clements met privately with Manish Bapna, the NRDC’s president and CEO, according to the records.
IER obtained the records as part of its broader effort to obtain communications between the White House and FERC Chairman Rich Glick. The group filed a lawsuit against FERC for allegedly stonewalling records requests.
“We have given FERC every opportunity to provide records confirming that Commissioner Glick and Commissioner Clements are not coordinating with the White House on the Biden Administration’s ‘whole of government’ approach to imposing a climate agenda despite lack of congressional instruction to do so,” Pyle told Fox News Digital at the time.
“So far, FERC has failed to give us anything probative.”