❮ Return to Our Work

Blog Post | April 5, 2021

Financial Disclosures Reveal Fossil Fuel Industry’s Pipeline To The White House

Ethics in Government
Financial Disclosures Reveal Fossil Fuel Industry’s Pipeline To The White House

In March, the Revolving Door Project analyzed the systemic failures in ethics law that allowed numerous senior White House officials to own stock in vaccine manufacturers while the public spent billions on their research and production. Using our growing repository of financial disclosures, we have now unearthed similar financial and career ties to the fossil fuel, natural gas, and pipeline industries.

Our analysis has turned up a shocking number of fossil fuel investors and defenders in the White House, even though we have only received approximately half of the disclosures we requested. The major fossil fuel holdings by top policymaking officials like Susan Rice seem out of step with the Biden administration’s priorities given the commitment to green energy demonstrated in its proposed infrastructure bill. They appear to undercut Biden’s understanding of the scale of the climate crisis, especially while Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen neglects to use her regulatory powers to reign in climate change. Of course, this apparent conflict would be easily dispelled if the administration required its officials to divest from individual stocks and extractive industries and stick to widely held investment funds.

We have broken down some of the major and minor financial ties White House officials have to fossil fuel companies in alphabetical order below:

Significant Fossil Fuel & Pipeline Ties:

  • Jonathan Cedarbaum, Deputy Counsel to the President, represented ExxonMobil and Andarko Petroleum Corporation as a partner at Wilmer Hale. His partnership share in the firm is worth $2,300,648, including up to an additional $2 million in retirement benefits and a “Wilmer Hale capital account.”
  • Stuart Delery, Deputy White House Counsel, represented clients like Energy Transfer Partners (a pipeline company), Energy Investments SCSp, the Southern Company and Pinnacle West (major utility companies) while a partner at corporate law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. His partnership share at the fossil-fuel defending firm is worth $3,790,417.
  • Jon Finer, Deputy National Security Adviser, was the Senior Vice President to the global private equity firm, Warburg Pincus, where he made $1,165,643. Warburg Pincus markets itself as “one of the earliest private equity investors in the energy sector” and “among the most experienced private equity investors in the energy industry.” Since it was founded in 1987, “Warburg Pincus has invested in more than 90 energy companies.” 
  • Based on her filings, Elizabeth Washburn owns between $1k-$15k in CoreEnergy Infrastructure, Laredo Petroleum, SPDR S&P Oil & Gas Exploration ETF and recently purchased between $1k to $15k of stock in companies like FuelCell Energy. Her fossil fuel and pipeline holdings are concerning given her role as Special Assistant to the President for Native Affairs,. 

Other Financial Ties To Fossil Fuel Companies:

  • Chiraag Bains, the Special Assistant to the President for Criminal Justice Policy, owns $15-$50k of stock in Western Midstream (liquid natural gas company), and $1k-$15k in Occidental Petroleum.
  • Corina Cortez , Assistant to the President for Domestic Agency Personnel, owns $15k-$50k in stock in Exelon and Enterprise Products Partners (pipeline company).
  • Michael Hochman, the Special Assistant to the President, owns $1k to $15k invested in fossil fuels through the Energy Select Sector SPDR Fund.
  • Daniel Hornung, Special Assistant to the President for Economic Policy, owns $1k-$15k in the Southern Company, the second largest utility in the US. He also owns an undisclosed amount of stock in Royal Dutch Shell, Valero Energy, and ExxonMobil.
  • Elizabeth Wilkins, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Advisor to the Chief of Staff, owns up to $30k in pipeline companies through her investments in the Tortoise MLP & Pipeline Fund. 
  • Thomas Zimmerman, Special Assistant to the President for National Security Agency Personnel, owns between $15-$50k of ExxonMobil and Chevron stocks, and $1k-$15k of NextEra Energy (a pipeline company)

Photo Credit: “Construction of the Gas Pipeline” by NPCAonline is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Ethics in Government

More articles by Elias Alsbergas

❮ Return to Our Work