Energy lobbyist Mike McKenna is taking a job at the White House on Monday, a White House official confirmed yesterday to E&E News.
McKenna will work under Eric Ueland, the legislative affairs director, who was tapped for the post this summer. McKenna will also serve as deputy assistant to the president, and is expected to work on energy and environmental issues.
Long known in Washington Republican energy circles, McKenna launched his firm, MWR Strategies, 15 years ago to lobby for energy companies and the power sector. In the first three quarters of 2019, his firm earned $490,000 from investor Competitive Power Ventures and natural gas distributor Engie, among other energy interests, lobbying records show. He personally lobbies before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, EPA and the Energy Department.
In 2016, McKenna briefly served on President Trump’s Energy Department transition team before Tom Pyle, president of the American Energy Alliance, took over. Both often speak publicly against Democratic energy positions.
McKenna has suggested that Trump should campaign on energy issues to distinguish himself from Democrats, who he has asserted "have gone crazy."
"They are now in a bidding war to see who will make energy prices increase the most," he told E&E News in July. "The president will take full advantage of that — as he should" (Energywire, July 9).
With one year remaining in Trump’s first term, McKenna will enter the White House after a number of energy and environment staff have left their posts.
George David Banks, who served in an international and climate post, left the White House in early 2018 after failing to obtain a security clearance. He now works at the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis for the minority. Mike Catanzaro, a longtime D.C. operative, also left last year and now works at the communications firm CGCN Group. And this summer, nuclear engineer Aaron Weston left his White House post in August to return to Idaho National Laboratory.
Some conservatives who support Trump’s deregulatory agenda have lamented a lack of personnel in key posts across the administration.
McKenna has also worked at Republican communications firms, including the conservative Luntz Research Cos., Vox Populi Communications Inc. and Andres McKenna Research, according to his online biography on MWR’s website.
Before that, McKenna worked at the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and "served as a relations specialist at both DOE and DOT," the website says. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in history at the University of Pennsylvania and a master’s in public administration at George Mason University.
In an interview with E&E News in March, McKenna said while the administration has had a "solid yet unspectacular" couple of years, "the challenge from here is to articulate and execute an agenda going forward" (Energywire, March 26).
Reporter Rod Kuckro contributed.