Republicans tap former oil lobbyist for national chair

By Timothy Cama | 03/08/2024 04:12 PM EST

Michael Whatley, a former Department of Energy official, replaces Ronna McDaniel as Republican National Committee chair.

Newly elected Republican National Committee Chair Michael Whatley.

Newly elected Republican National Committee Chair Michael Whatley on Friday. He has deep experience in energy issues. Michael Wyke/AP

The Republican Party has picked Michael Whatley, a former oil and natural gas lobbyist, to be its new chair ahead of November’s presidential election.

The Republican National Committee made the pick official at a Friday meeting, replacing Ronna McDaniel, who had been chair since 2017.

Former President Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, reportedly pressured McDaniel to resign and endorsed Whatley to replace her. Whatley is currently chair of the North Carolina Republican Party.


He was formerly a partner at HBW Resources, a lobbying firm, where he represented and was executive vice president of the Consumer Energy Alliance, a group the firm manages that includes oil, utility and big business members, from 2008 to 2019. The firm has also lobbied for Noble Energy, BP, and the Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association, among other clients.

Whatley’s other past positions include a stint as a Department of Energy official under President George W. Bush and staff director for the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Clean Air.

Upon taking the gavel at Friday’s RNC meeting, Whatley said he’s laser-focused on this year’s elections.

“Our country, and indeed the entire world, cannot take four more years of Joe Biden and Democratic control,” he told committee members.

“In less than eight months, we are going to determine the fate of not only the United States but of the entire world,” he said. “And this body, the RNC, is going to be the vanguard of a movement that will work tirelessly every single day to elect our nominee, Donald J. Trump, as the 47th president of the United States, flip the Senate, expand our majority in the House of Representatives.”

Climate Power, which supports President Joe Biden’s climate agenda, slammed Whatley’s appointment.

“As of today, Big Oil has installed a direct line to the head of the RNC, boosting their influence across the party and keeping the revolving door spinning,” Alex Witt, the group’s senior adviser for oil and gas, said in a statement. “Big Oil is already bankrolling Trump and MAGA Republicans; now, through Michael Whatley, they’ll have a big say in where the money goes in 2024.”

The RNC also picked Lara Trump, a former television producer and the former president’s daughter-in-law, to be its co-chair, succeeding Drew McKissick.

Lara Trump’s brother, Kyle Yunaska, held a series of DOE roles during the Trump administration, including as principal deputy director of the Office of Policy.