Hillary Clinton hasn’t even announced a presidential bid yet, but key campaign players are already getting in place, fueling speculation about Clinton’s likely cadre of green allies.
Clinton has amassed a hefty Rolodex of friends in the energy and environmental arena during her stints as first lady, New York senator and secretary of State — many of whom are expected to play big parts in a possible Clinton campaign or administration.
In the earliest and strongest indication that Clinton intends to rely on a roster of longtime confidants from the Clintons’ inner circles, she’s expected to tap her husband’s onetime chief of staff and former Obama administration green czar John Podesta as her campaign chairman.
Podesta’s likely presence at the helm of the campaign signals that Clinton’s green policies would remain consistent with those coming from the Obama administration of late. Podesta was a driving force behind the White House’s green agenda from early 2014, when he became Obama’s counselor, until he left the administration in February to join Clinton’s team.
Clinton and Podesta are also expected to call upon some familiar faces to help them craft their environmental strategy for both a campaign and a possible presidency. That’s expected to include former high-ranking officials from the Clinton and Obama administrations and policy insiders who have won their trust.
"The people who have been in the Clinton-Obama mix will likely stay in that mix," said a former senior U.S. EPA official during the Obama administration.
Many officials who served in Obama’s executive branch are expected to seek a break after the eight-year administration. A Democratic win in 2016 would mark the first time consecutive presidents have come from the same party since Ronald Reagan’s administration handed power to George H.W. Bush in 1989.
Still, the former EPA official said, some senior officials can be expected to stick around. "There are people whose appetite for the hurly-burly life in government is never satiated. They may go off for a couple of years, but I think in many cases they’re ready to come back."
Former executive branch officials are also expecting to see Clinton tap some new talent.
"There’s tremendous advantage to having a combination of some experience and fresh blood, and that’s what I think the formula would be," said a former Clinton administration energy official. Clinton will "want this to be her administration," that person said.
Energy team prospects
Here’s a look at a few of the high-profile energy insiders who could play big parts in a possible Clinton campaign for the White House:
Dan Utech: Before joining the Obama White House as a top energy and climate aide, Utech worked for six years in Clinton’s Senate office, where he became her top energy and environmental adviser. Some observers expect him to stick around the White House for the rest of Obama’s term to help carry out the administration’s ambitious environmental agenda, particularly as other top energy staffers like Podesta and acting Council on Environmental Quality chief Mike Boots are stepping down. But given his ties to Clinton and the experience he’s gotten at the White House and previously as a senior adviser to former Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Utech is seen as a likely key player in a possible Clinton administration.
Carol Browner: Since stepping down as Obama’s climate and energy czar in 2011, Browner has kept a relatively low profile. She’s a senior fellow at the Podesta-founded think tank Center for American Progress and senior counselor at the business advisory firm Albright Stonebridge Group, and she serves on various boards. Sources say it’s unclear whether Browner, who was EPA chief for the duration of the Clinton administration, would seek or even accept another spot in the limelight. But given her résumé and her ties to both Podesta and Clinton, she’s likely to at least play an important advisory role to Clinton on energy issues.
Tom Steyer: The billionaire environmentalist was an early supporter of Clinton during her 2008 presidential bid, who later shifted allegiances to Obama. Steyer — one of the top donors on the left — is also close to Podesta. Steyer serves on the board of directors at the Center for American Progress, and frequently huddled with Podesta at the White House. After shoveling more than $70 million into Democratic campaigns and liberal causes in last year’s midterm elections, Steyer is expected to be an important player — and a big source of cash — for the Democratic presidential nominee in 2016.
Jennifer Granholm: The former Michigan governor is co-chairwoman of the pro-Clinton super PAC Priorities USA Action and has worked to build up early support for the anticipated Clinton campaign. Granholm has long been an outspoken advocate of efforts to fight climate change and boost renewable energy, and she was rumored to be in the running to lead the Energy Department during the Obama administration. Granholm’s early and active support could put her in a prime position to hold a key environmental post — or another top position, including attorney general — in a possible Clinton administration.
David Hayes: The former deputy Interior Department chief during both the Obama and Clinton administrations played a key role in shaping energy and environmental policies under both Democratic presidents. He was picked to serve on Obama’s transition team to help ready the administration’s energy and natural resources team and policies. Hayes also recently signed on as visiting senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, where he’s focused on public lands. With ties to Podesta and current and former officials from the Obama and Clinton administrations, Hayes is seen as likely to return to political life to work for Hillary Clinton.
Todd Stern: The longtime State Department special envoy for climate change owes his entry to the Obama administration to Clinton. As secretary of State, Clinton appointed Stern to the climate post in January 2009, just days after the new administration took office. Stern had been an assistant to President Clinton and was the chief U.S. negotiator at U.N. climate change talks in his administration. The climate envoy has been in the post for the entirety of Obama’s tenure, and it’s unclear whether he’d be looking to stay in government should Hillary Clinton win the White House. Still, he’s someone who could advise or possibly continue to work for her down the line.