Mike McKenna

Mike McKenna

Credentials

  • M.A., Public Administration, George Mason University, 1992. [1], [2]
  • B.A., History, University of Pennsylvania, 1985. [1], [2]

Background

Michael (Mike) McKenna is a former energy lobbyist and communications specialist currently serving as a deputy assistant to the President of the United States. [3], [4]

McKenna served in the Department of Energy under the George H.W. Bush administration and was the Policy and Planning Director of Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality between 1994 and 1997. He was forced to resign from the latter position after suggesting that the governor’s office should threaten to sue an oversight agency that was critical of the administration’s failure to enforce water quality laws. [5], [6]

McKenna founded MWR Strategies in 2004, where he lobbied on behalf of energy, utility, and pharmaceutical interests at FERC, EPA, DOE, and NRC. Some of MWR’s clients have included Competitive Power Ventures (CPV), Engie, Dow Chemical, American Electric Power, the National Petrochemical Refiners Association, Southern Company, American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers, and Koch Industries. McKenna has also been associated with the American Energy Alliance and the Institute for Energy Research. [1], [3], [4], [7], [8]

Between 2007 and 2014, MWR received more than $1 million dollars in lobbying fees from Koch Industries and Southern Company. American Electric Power paid MWR $570,000 between 2004 and 2012. [9]

In September 2016, after advising former Texas Governor Rick Perry’s failed presidential bid, McKenna was picked to manage President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team at the Department of Energy, which regulated the activities of many of McKenna’s clients. One of his stated goals was to help roll back the Clean Power Plan and the Clean Water Act. McKenna left the transition team in November of 2016 to avoid de-registering as a lobbyist in accordance with new administration rules. [4], [7], [5], [10], [11]

Immediately following his departure from the Trump administration, McKenna returned to MWR where he continued to lobby FERC on behalf of CPV. Financial disclosures revealed that CPV paid McKenna more in 2017 than in any previous year, while a natural gas pipeline serving a CPV plant was awaiting approval by FERC. [4], [5], [12]

Stance on Climate Change

2016

Following his appointment to the Trump transition team at the Department of Energy in 2016, McKenna revealed his feelings about the Paris Climate Accords:

[T]he right answer in a non-legally binding situation like Paris and the right answer on that option list is do nothing, and I expect that’s what the Trump administration is ultimately going to chose to do with Paris is do nothing, ignore it, pay no attention to it. Just treat it as an annoyance that comes around every year or so.” [10]

Key Quotes

2017

Speaking to Time Magazine about EPA staff concerns about agency administrator Scott Pruitt’s history of suing the agency:

We’re not about assuaging the concerns of the 14,000 employees of the EPA,” he said. “We’re about assuaging the concerns of the 63 million people who voted for Donald Trump.” [13]

November 18, 2016

Speaking about the Trump administration’s plans to roll back the Obama-era Clean Power Plan:

“I think there’s a bunch of different ways to scrap the plan.” [10]

Key Deeds

October 24, 2019

McKenna was hired by the White House to work in the legislative affairs office and to serve as a deputy assistant to the president on energy-related issues. [4]

May 29, 2019

MWR conducted another poll for the American Energy Alliance claiming voters in nine states opposed tax incentives for electric vehicles. [17]

Elected officials who are concerned about voter opinion should probably think twice before expanding favorable tax treatment for electric vehicles. Voters in each state we examined are very skeptical of them,” McKenna was quoted in the AEA press release. [17]

DeSmog reviewed the previous poll and found it contained misleading questions and conflicted with a separate poll conducted by Yale University and George Mason University that showed that Democrats, Republicans, and Independents all shared positive opinions of electric vehicles. [17]

June 19, 2018

McKenna’s MWR Strategies conducted a push poll for the Koch-funded American Energy Alliance to gauge public perception of electric vehicles and emissions standards. Critics found that the poll was designed to create a negative impression of electric vehicles and their associated tax incentives through misleading questions. [14]

Two of the questions claimed that purchasers of EVs received “75 hundred dollars” from taxpayers and the federal government, which is a false characterization of how tax credits actually work, and ignored the fact that most EVs are leased, not purchased. [14]

In promoting the poll, the AEA did not highlight results showing that respondents clearly believed that EVs were better for the environment and were in favor of emissions standards for gasoline-powered automobiles. [14]

2016

The Trump campaign announced that McKenna was selected to manage the transition team at the Department of Energy, along with Myron Ebell at EPA and David Bernhardt at the Department of the Interior. [7]

After two months on the job, McKenna left the team to avoid de-registering as a lobbyist in accordance with new rules barring lobbyists from performing official government duties. [10]

McKenna told reporters that the incoming Trump administration planned to roll back the Clean Power Plan and the Clean Water Rule, and potentially withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. [10]

Returning to his work with MWR, McKenna said:  [10]

“Although I have reluctantly decided that I cannot continue on the transition in an official capacity,” he said, “I am excited about continuing to work to make America great again.” 

2010

Speaking to Fox News about stalled cap-and-trade legislation, McKenna described it as an energy tax: [16]

I don’t really see any compromise, because no matter how you slice this, it’s an energy tax. […] At the core it means to make energy more expensive.”

January 1997

McKenna resigned from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality after a memo he wrote went public in which he urged the governor’s office to discredit and threaten a legislative oversight commission. [15]

Affiliations

  • MWR Strategies – President/Czar, 2004-present. [1], [2]
  • Luntz Research Companies  [1]
  • Vox Populi Communications Inc.  [1]
  • Andres McKenna Research [1]
  • Virginia Department of Environmental Quality – Director of Policy and External affairs, 1994-1997. [1], [5]
  • US Department of Energy – External Relations Specialist. [1]
  • US Department of Transportation – External Relations Specialist. [1]
  • Institute for Public Policy Studies, University of Denver – Fellow. [1]
  • Dole Institute, University of Kansas – Fellow. [1]

Lobbying Clients

Below is a summary of McKenna’s former clients and lobbying firms, based on data from OpenSecrets: [3]

Lobbying Firm & Client 1998 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
Andres-McKenna Research Group
TECO Energy Y Y Y Y
Baise & Miller
Martinizing Environmental Group Y
Solid Waste Assn of North America Y
West Coast Refuse & Recycling Coalition Y
Dutko Group
Charles Schwab Corp Y
City of Sandy OH Y
DRS Technologies Y Y
European Telecommun Standards Institute Y
FedEx Corp Y
Food Distributors International Y
Government of the US Virgin Islands Y
Grocery Manufacturers of America Y
HNTB Holdings Y
Hoover Partners Y
Household International Y
ICO Global Communications Y
Inmarsat Ventures Y
International Assn of Fire Fighters Y
JM Family Enterprises Y
Justice Project Y
Level 3 Communications Y
Magellan Behavioral Health Y
Massachusetts School of Law Y
Maxxam Inc Y
MEP Management Services Y
Michigan Biotechnology Institute Y
Mirant Corp Y Y
Museum of Modern Art Y
National Assn of Recording Merchandisers Y
National Aviary in Pittsburgh Y
National Ground Water Assn Y
Oregon Garden Foundation Y
Public Service Enterprise Group Y
Satellite Broadcasting & Commun Assn Y
SpaceData International Y
Sprint Corp Y
Todhunter International Y
Tractebel North America Y Y
Tufts University Y
Union Pacific Corp Y
UnitedHealth Group Y
University of Maryland Y
VeriSign Inc Y
Wachtell Lipton et al Y
Western Governors University Y
Western Governors’ Assn Y
Lazarus Group
Baise & Miller Y Y
MWR Strategies
American Electric Power Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
Avanir Pharmaceuticals Y Y
Competitive Power Ventures Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
Dow Chemical Y Y Y Y Y
El Paso Corp Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
ENGIE Y Y Y Y Y
GDF SUEZ Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
Greenberg Traurig LLP Y Y
Koch Industries Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
National Petrochemical & Refiners Assn Y
NiSource Inc Y Y Y Y
Public Service Enterprise Group Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
Southern Co Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
SUEZ SA Y Y Y
TECO Energy Y

Social Media

Publications

According to McKenna’s MWR bio, his writing has been featured in the following publications: Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Investors Business Daily, National Review, Policy Review, Regulation, Washington Times, Richmond Times Dispatch, Virginian Plot-Ledger Star, and State Legislatures. [1]

Resources

  1. Michael McKenna,” MWRStrategies.com. Archived January 16, 2019. Archive.is URL: http://archive.is/JMadp
  2. Mike McKenna,” LinkedIn. Accessed November 13, 2019. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.
  3. Michael McKenna,” OpenSecrets.org. Archived November 21, 2019. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/aABxN
  4. Kelsey Brugger. “Energy lobbyist Mike McKenna to take White House job,” E&E News, October 25, 2019. Archived November 13, 2019. Archive.is URL: http://archive.ph/3aWCv
  5. Derek Seidman. “Meet the Trump Insider That’s Lobbying for Competitive Power Ventures,” LittleSis, April 26, 2018. Archived November 13, 2019. Archive.is URL: http://archive.ph/mzISW
  6. Ellen Nakashima. “Va. Official Resigns Over Memo,” Washington Post, January 11, 1997. Archived August 16, 2019. Archive.is URL: http://archive.ph/QOUc3
  7. Andrew Restuccia, Elana Schor. “Trump transition fills out energy team,” Politico.com, September 26, 2016. Archived July 24, 2019. Archive.is URL: http://archive.ph/xp7WC
  8. The Trump-tied Lobbyist for CPV,” LittleSis, April 26, 2008. Archived November 14, 2019. Archive.is URL: http://archive.is/0vHkW
  9. Lobbying Firm Profile: MWR Strategies,” OpenSecrets.org. Accessed November 13, 2019. 
  10. Robin Bravender. “Energy lobbyist leaves DOE landing team,” E&E News, November 18, 2016. Archived August 13, 2019. Archive.is URL: http://archive.is/qrDRm
  11. Ian Tuttle. “Anatomy of a Hit Job: The NYT’s Disgraceful Attack on Rick Perry,” National Review, January 19, 2017. Archived August 11, 2019. Archive.is URL: http://archive.ph/PrKEU
  12. Mark Hand. “Power plant developer boosts spending on Trump insider to lobby for controversial project,” ThinkProgress.org, April 20, 2018. Archived April 20, 2018. Archive.is URL: http://archive.is/sYaKJ
  13. Justin  Worland. “Former Trump Aide Says Wind and Solar Research Will Be Cut,” Time Magazine, February 24, 2017. Archived January 16, 2018. Archive.is URL: http://archive.ph/s6Eym
  14. Mark Renburke. “Poll by Former Koch Lobbyist Skews Public Support for Clean Cars, Electric Vehicles,” DeSmog Blog, June 20, 2018.
  15. Karl Blankenship. “Virginia DEQ reorganization raises turmoil, controversy,” Bay Journal, July 1, 1997. Archived August 15, 2019. Archive.is URL: http://archive.is/fMa1s
  16. Will Obama Be Forced to Put Climate Change on Hold?,” YouTube video uploaded by user MWRstrat, March 18, 2010. Archived .mp4 on file at DeSmog.
  17. New Survey Results Find Voters (Still) Don’t Favor EV Subsidies,” American Energy Alliance, May 29, 2019. Archived November 22, 2019. Archive URLhttps://archive.ph/BIwFm 

Other Resources

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